WASHINGTON – As negotiations between the Biden Administration and congressional lawmakers over a federal infrastructure package continue, the National Association of Counties (NACo) again today stated its strong opposition to any proposal that would repurpose urgently needed coronavirus recovery funds for infrastructure.
Playing a major role in building and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure, counties have long focused on strengthening roads, bridges, airports, public facilities and other critical infrastructure to meet residents’ needs. Now, after having been on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic, counties face new and unique challenges and need a strong federal partner.
The American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Biden in March, included $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid to every county in America, as well as other crucial investments. This historic legislation recognized counties’ vast responsibilities to serve our most vulnerable residents – our sick, unemployed, elderly and youth. That aid is already being responsibly invested in communities across the country. Examples include:
- Fort Bend County, Texas – Of the $157.4 million received from the American Rescue Plan Act, Fort Bend County has begun investing a total of $31.5 million in economic recovery, including the county’s small-business grant program, which received $25 million for small businesses that have been affected by COVID. Also, $10 million has been allocated to the county’s mortgage assistance program and $3 million will go toward the county’s youth summer jobs program.
- Pierce County, Wash. – Officials approved an executive plan that includes $1.5 million for expanding youth summer programs to provide additional learning and socialization opportunities, which is especially important for students who were forced to learn remotely this year, and $5 million for entrepreneurship and technical assistance programs focused on Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. An additional $3 million is being invested in workforce development programs and rapid training for worker reskill and upskill for young people with high barriers to employment.
- Nassau County, N.Y. – County leaders are allocating $25 million in ARP funds to support Nassau's downtown businesses through direct support to small businesses with stabilization loans that have greater flexibility, extended pay-back periods and lower interest rates to aid recovery. The plan also establishes the Boost Nassau Resource Center to streamline applications for business grants and other recovery funds. Nassau County has also directed $100 million to provide direct cash relief to households.
“Diverting coronavirus relief funds away from current and future recovery efforts would be unwise and detrimental to our communities,” said NACo Government Affairs Director Mark Ritacco. “The much-needed aid in the American Rescue Plan Act is strengthening communities by investing in small businesses and nonprofits, vaccine distribution, public health and safety, human services, especially for those suffering from domestic violence, mental illnesses and substance use disorders, as well as broadband.”
Counties have been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic since the beginning and have seen resources depleted as we provide critical services to our residents. While counties face record demand for essential services, local governments have shed jobs at rates far outpacing the rest of the economy. Counties have dug into reserves to conduct millions of COVID-19 tests and vaccinate hundreds of millions of residents all while attempting to keep our local economies viable and strong.
The need for a comprehensive infrastructure package pre-dates the pandemic. Counties own 44 percent of the nation’s road miles and four out of 10 of the nation’s bridges, and we are involved in nearly 80 percent of all public transit systems.
“We need a strong federal partnership in rebuilding, repairing and maintaining our critical infrastructure and also to support our efforts to build a brighter, more resilient future post-pandemic,” Ritacco said.
NACo, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities sent a joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Republican Leader McConnell, House Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader McCarthy adamantly opposing any proposal that would repurpose urgently needed coronavirus relief funds for other activities. A copy of the letter was also sent to all members of Congress. The letter can be found here.Standard