It’s OK to excuse city leaders if they’re a bit like kids in a candy store following the announcement that Alexandria will receive almost $60 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan over the next 45 months.
While there’s ultimately no such thing as free money – U.S. taxpayers are going to be paying for this $1.9 trillion bill for a very long time – this money is definitely a short-term windfall. Dedicating the first half-million dollars to food distribution and housing assistance for the next few months seems prudent.
We also strongly agree with residents who think a significant portion of the funds should be immediately diverted to stem the incessant flooding and water problems that plague swaths of Alexandria.
While climate change is definitely a factor in frequent flooding, so are city policies such as deferred and poorly executed maintenance of sewers, long-delayed work on sewer outfalls into the Potomac River and over-densification with its attendant loss of trees and open space.
Expanding short-term school capacity so that Alexandria City Public Schools is able to meet five days a week, in-person this fall would be another productive expenditure. Spending ARP funds to rent and retrofit some of the multitude of empty office space in Alexandria would meet both the spirit and letter of the ARP since it would be spent directly mitigating one of the worst side effects of the pandemic.
Providing food and housing to those in need, plus getting all children back in school full-time while mitigating flooding would be money well-spent indeed.