Remarks at Public Hearing for HB 2883 on Allocation of ARPA Funds
by Gary Zuckett, Executive Director, WV Citizen Action Group, Feb. 2, 2023
Thank you Chairman Criss for giving the public a chance to weigh in on this one page appropriations bill that includes $677 million of American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
According to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s final rule, ARPA Fiscal Recovery Funds are intended to “provide state, local, and tribal governments with the resources needed to respond to the pandemic and its economic effects and to build a stronger, more equitable economy during the recovery.” There are four eligible categories for funds to be used: addressing public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic; premium pay for essential workers; offsetting revenue loss; and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
HB 2883 is a mere one-page bill that allocates 1.3 billion dollars! Where does all that money go? 500 million goes to the state economic development authority. What will they do with the money? Will any end up in the southern coalfields where the economy is in the tank? Or will additional hundreds of millions go as handouts to woo out of state corporations as was done with the major portion of the first of ARPA monies?
Where is the public input? The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs did a statewide ARPA listening tour. Where is their report? The results of that listening tour are not publicly available, and it doesn’t appear to have informed this ARPA spending request.
The NAACP and Tuesday Morning Group both submitted proposals to take a portion of this one-time federal funding opportunity and make some real, equitable investments into impoverished communities in our state. These have apparently been ignored. Where is the public input that ARPA funding was supposed to have?
What is the need to rush this appropriation through? We would ask this committee to take testimony from communities in need as to how they’d like to see these funds appropriated. Is their best use a $500 million slush fund for the state Economic Development Office? We advocate that this funding should be used to address the real needs of communities left out of development plans.
Please take your time, take a look at the community proposals that are ready on the table, take additional testimony in committee and make these one-time funds do the most good for the most people in our state!