The American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Biden provides more than $13.7 billion to Pennsylvania governments—roughly half going to counties, townships, borough, and cities. How will each unit of government spend it? A chunk of the dollars will backfill lost tax revenue, but, for most if not all local governments, there will be substantial additional money available to help communities in any number of ways. Officials are already debating how to spend this money; your waterway restoration, land conservation, and park and trail projects should be part of this deliberation.
The funds start to flow this month; governments have until 12/31/2024 to obligate this money and 12/31/2026 to spend it all. Lots of organizations are or will be competing for local government’s attention to their needs. Conservation and outdoor recreation interests have compelling cases for prioritizing local government dollars to their projects. It’s crucial that you and your organizations make these cases if your projects are to benefit from the American Rescue Plan. Don’t wait or the opportunity will pass you by.
Uncertainty does exist about what are and are not appropriate uses of American Rescue Plan dollars. The federal guidelines are intentionally vague to give counties, townships, boroughs, and cities latitude in determining what to fund. The guidelines explicitly reference “making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.” That provision alone provides justification to a huge range of waterway restoration, land conservation, and park and trail projects that improve water quality or the management of stormwater. Silas Chamberlin has produced an excellent piece providing background and arguments for use of American Rescue Plan dollars for a broad array of conservation and recreation projects.
I urge you to reach out to your county and local municipal government officials to advocate for investing American Rescue Plan money in your good projects for the betterment of your communities.
Please share local successes in tapping American Rescue Plan dollars with WeConservePA. As appropriate to your situation, we will keep information confidential or share it broadly to help others. Please share with Lina Berón Echavarría at [email protected].
Andrew M. Loza