OUR VIEW | City Spends Stimulus Money Wisely


Localities around the country have been jostling for funds from the federal governments stimulus package since it became one of the Obama administrations first major priorities. The money does not come from a free-flowing reservoir but stapled with guidelines outlining general usages to be further vetted, customized and allocated on the municipal level. The citys success in attaining dollars through the program thus far should be applauded, as should the moneys logical allocation to programs aimed at long-term sustainability. Some of the money has gone toward Band-Aid-type cures as well, providing short-term but necessary and immediate relief to residents who have suffered since the economy faltered and the city budget took its turn on the chopping block.

The city began planning for federal funds in the fall when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act seemed imminent and the result shows wise planning on the citys part. Many of the citys decisions were deliberate moves to reinforce a culture of sustainability, not just an occasional spark here and there.

The $241,000 awarded under the Community Service Block Grants stands out as an investment in the
future. Its usages are inclusive and forward looking. Aimed at bringing low-income residents and ex-offenders into the citys fluid socioeconomic dynamics, it discourages stagnancy in the community by providing education and job training to sectors of the city in need of extra support. For instance, a former criminal will have a better chance to contribute as a functioning member of society.

The one-time half-million dollar infusion of the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing grant (managed by the Department of Human Services) accompanies the Block Grant well as a one-two punch. It provides assistance to homeless Alexandrians and residents in danger of homelessness who can benefit from the one-time aid and sustain themselves and their homes with the opportunities offered from the Block Grant.

Aside from social programs, the city has secured money and allocated it well based on some of its long-term goals, like environmental sustainability. Cleaner-running DASH buses and money to improve bike and running trails has been secured, and the city has applied for funds under the Energy Efficiency&Conservation Block grant, which already has money allocated to Alexandria. All this comes at a time when the citys Eco-City Alexandria plan could otherwise be stifled by more immediate needs and a tight budget.

The city stands to gain money from the federal government in the long run as well, taking advantage of a program that allows federal subsidy of the interest that the city has paid to fund capital improvement programs, some of which are still unfunded.

The citys economy may benefit indirectly from social programs that support more self-sufficient taxpayers and development projects that can influence economic growth. But the city can still take advantage of more direct economic development initiatives through the stimulus package and it has more applications pending. Still, the economic development portion of the most recent budget was one of few realms left intact.

There are arguments to be made against and for every decision made thus far. Depending on your personal situation, whats personally important is of course unique to you. But the whole city benefits from pragmatic planning based on long-term goals.