These states have yet to spend any of the COVID relief funds they received: report

These states have yet to spend any of the COVID relief funds they received: report

When President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law, he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t thinking in terms of red states and blue states — the pandemic relief funds were there to help Americans regardless of whether or not they voted for him in the 2020 presidential election. But according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C. think tank, eight states — most of them red states — have yet to authorize spending of the Rescue Plan funds they received from the federal government.

McClatchy reporters Bryan Lowry and Jeanne Kuang, drawing on Center data, explain, “States have until 2024 to spend their portion of the $350 billion in federal aid distributed to state and local governments as part of Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The aid to states and local governments made up roughly a sixth of the $2 trillion relief package approved by Congress in March, one of Biden’s biggest legislative victories. Many states have steered those funds toward replacing lost revenue or economic relief programs, but a handful of mostly Republican states will head into the new year without having spent a dollar from the program.”

The reporters note that those eight states “cumulatively represent roughly $16.5 billion in unspent aid.” The states are Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Nebraska, Rhode Island and South Dakota, most of which are red states with Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures.

The bluest of those eight states, hands down, is Rhode Island, which hasn’t gone GOP in a presidential election since President Ronald Reagan’s landslide reelection victory in 1984. Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas, South Carolina, Nebraska and South Dakota are deep red, although Georgia has evolved into a swing state.

Georgia has a conservative Republican governor: Brian Kemp, who narrowly defeated liberal/progressive Democrat Stacey Abrams in 2018 (Abrams is running for governor again in 2022). But both of Georgia’s U.S. senators are Democrats: Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. And centrist Biden won Georgia in 2020’s presidential election, contrary to false claims from former President Donald Trump that have been totally debunked.

“Policymakers in Missouri and other states that have been slow to spend the funds are expecting to use some of the money for one-time investments in infrastructure rather than short-term economic relief or COVID response,” Lowry and Kuang report. “(Missouri Gov. Mike) Parson has suggested spending $400 million toward increasing broadband access across the state. Another likely use is helping local governments make improvements on wastewater, stormwater and drinking water utilities, according to lawmakers.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury Department, quoted anonymously, told McClatchy, “Many states and localities have legislative or other governmental processes that they must complete before deploying funds or signing contracts,” a spokesperson for the Treasury Department told McClatchy. “While this can lead to a delay, it importantly allows for the community to engage on the plans around these historic investments.”

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