There is no mistaking how people are enjoying being able to see one another in person, to travel, and to go to local festivals and eateries again after last year’s pandemic restrictions.
We all know how those 2020 restrictions helped put us on the path to a far more open 2021, and yet restrictions and the cost of the pandemic itself put a huge gouge in our economy as schools, businesses, and, especially, the travel and hospitality industries had to shift to crisis mode — or shut down. The tragedy has been great in terms of lives lost particularly, but also in terms of livelihoods lost, health declines, learning disruptions and new infrastructure needs.
Congress, also struggling to understand and react appropriately to this national situation, has responded by sending several waves of funding to the states. Here in Indiana we’ve already received money from the CARES Act (as have all the states) and are readying to receive funds from the American Rescue Plan. Montgomery County will be receiving $7.44 million. The City of Crawfordsville will receive $3.36 million. Together our three school districts will receive $7.7 million.
These are impactful sums that will be critical to the future of our community. It is vital that all of us pay attention and have input into conversations about how investments will be made. Our government officials need to be transparent about their decisions. We have excellent, dedicated local officials who will take this “once in a lifetime” situation seriously and put in the work to study our county’s current needs. They need to hear from you. What will be best for the public good going forward?
The federal funds are to help us all: as our Chamber of Commerce says, “Build Back Better.” Our county and city have thoughtfully engaged the services of a legal team to be sure we follow federal guidelines as Montgomery County moves forward step by step. In general, the funds are to be used to provide government services affected by the revenue reduction resulting from COVID-19. They allow investment in such things as broadband infrastructure and water and sewage improvements. Much conversation will need to happen between elected officials and the public about how these monies should be used.
At this time of financial windfall, after almost 18 months of economic turmoil, the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County reminds all residents to focus on the issues and opportunities at hand, setting “politics” aside and thinking about our health, education, land use, climate and economic health.
There is not a “right” way or a “wrong” way to spend and invest this money when it begins to arrive later this year. There will be, though, many, many thoughtful ways to use these funds to make our community stronger and more prosperous as we move farther into the 21st century. Our time in history has special challenges. Let’s meet them. Stay engaged; stay in conversation.
Melissa Dees and Helen Hudson
League of Women Voters of Montgomery County