Rescue Plan putting money in households and municipal coffers
By Kristen Meriwether, Editor LPR
On March 11 President Joseph Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law. The $1.9 trillion bill, introduce on Feb. 24, was voted largely along party lines (220-211 in the House, 50-49 in the Senate).
The bill gives stimulus checks of up to $1,400 to Americans whose adjusted gross income is less than $80,000 (single taxpayers), $120,000 (head of household), or $160,000 (filing jointly). This is the third round of stimulus checks Americans have collected since the pandemic began one year ago.
The stimulus checks have made the biggest headlines and are the biggest part of the bill at $410 million. But the Rescue Plan also includes an addition $350 million for state and local government aid.
Caldwell County is set to receive $8.47 million, the City of Lockhart will get $3.08 million, and the City of Martindale will get $270,000. Like the Cares Act from last year, the money will be given to the State of Texas to doll out to local municipalities.
The local aid from the Rescue Plan will not be limited to reimbursements for COVID related government expenditures or payments for essential workers like under the CARES Act. The Rescue Plan says municipalities can also offer assistance to small businesses, households, hard-hit industries impacted by COVID, and more economic recovery. That could be direct grants or payments or setting up programs to aid in recovery.
“This Rescue plan is designed to help families and local governments get through this pandemic until most Americans can be vaccinated and economic growth sustained. An immediate focus is supporting a strong plan to overcome the chaos and anxiety with vaccinations,” U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who represents parts of Caldwell County, said in an emailed statement to LPR. “The City of Lockhart and Caldwell County are given great flexibility in using this one-time grant of substantial federal funds to recoup pandemic costs and revenue losses and to respond to the most pressing local needs resulting from the ongoing health and economic challenges. Local citizens have an opportunity to let their elected officials know where they feel these dollars are best used.”
LPR reached out to the City of Lockhart, the City of Martindale, and Caldwell County to see how they would spend the allocation. With the ink barely dry on the bill, none of the municipalities had devised a spending plan yet, but all promised to bring any proposals through a public process to be voted on.
“Caldwell County is still waiting to receive the funding from the last round of federal relief,” Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden told LPR by phone March 15. “Once we receive instructions from the State on what would be eligible for this new round of funding, we will bring options to Commissioners Court for a vote.”
Lockhart City Manager Steven Lewis said in an emailed statement to LPR: ”It takes time to gain a better understanding on what is considered eligible expenditures. Once we have a better grasp, we’ll be able to present options to council for consideration.”
Martindale Mayor Rob Deviney said he had not seen the spending rules yet.
“Until we see the rules, I can’t tell you how I’m going to spend it,” Deviney told LPR in a March 15 phone interview. “The City offices will evaluate how the rules apply directly to Martindale and then present that to our City Council.”
Local governments will have until Dec. 31, 2024 to spend the money.
How did they vote?
Michael Cloud (R) – Nay
Lloyd Doggett (D) – Yea
John Cornyn (R) – Nay
Ted Cruz (R) – Nay