Helicopters, cash payments and a new public health lab: How state agencies propose spending Virginia’s rescue fund money
Virginia has $4.3 billion in federal aid to spend and no shortage of ideas.
State agencies hoping to tap into American Rescue Plan funds have submitted wish lists that top more than $18 billion, floating proposals ranging from new helicopters for Virginia State Police to $1,000 cash payments for essential workers.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration hasn’t committed to specific line items, but lawmakers are scheduled to convene next month for a special legislative session to decide how to spend the money.
Discussions are ongoing over whether some of the requests are or aren’t eligible for the federal dollars, which are supposed to have a direct link to the negative effects of the pandemic.
Furthermore, the federal government has earmarked certain funds for specific purposes, such as combating student learning loss due to schools going virtual during the pandemic. And because the state can spend the funds over several years, policymakers may choose to set some money aside to adapt to future needs. Federal dollars put toward some initiatives may also free up state dollars for others not eligible for relief funding.
Most of the spending proposals put forward, from vaccine outreach and utility assistance to fixing the unemployment system and broadband investment, won’t come as a surprise.
Other spending suggestions are a little less intuitive — or show agencies trying to use the sudden influx of funds to advance efforts that may have been back-burnered in tighter budget years.
Here’s a sampling of the proposals that caught Mercury reporters’ eyes.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.
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