Rescue plan

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Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday that the state has received the second half of its $1.35 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government. In doing so, he made an important point. West Virginia is just not used to handling so much money.

“The second installment of this has arrived now,” he said. “We have to be careful and smart in what we do… We were so upset over the past decades when we had no money to turn around. We didn’t know what to do. Now it’s gone. With that, we’re just going to try to do more and more good for West Virginia.

Much of this goodness will come in the form of matching grants to municipalities for water and sewer infrastructure projects.

“Now they have to qualify and they have to qualify under the terms and conditions of the entire ARPA bill,” Justice said. “So we’ll have projects that we’ll come up with and we’ll walk them through all the different stages and everything and then see if we can qualify them and everything…”

Good. Local officials will likely appreciate the help.

But let’s keep in mind our state’s less than stellar reputation for spending federal taxpayer dollars. On May 1, we were tagged again “slow spender” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as we still cling to the $60 million in Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grants that were awarded to the state in 2018, to be used in recovery efforts after the 2016 floods. (Yes, we’re still talking about getting people the help they need after a disaster that happened six years ago). The RISE West Virginia program that was supposed to spend that money to help people is now under federal investigation.

We just don’t seem to be able to help ourselves when the money comes in, and another massive influx has hit state coffers. Justice and the rest of the usual Charleston bureaucrats will have to work harder to make sure OUR money is spent quickly and as intended.

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