The Federal Windfall That Cities Can’t Afford to Waste

This post is from the free edition of Heartland Intelligence. To receive our exclusive monthly research briefing and other proprietary content on the American Heartland, subscribe today.

My latest column is now online in Governing magazine. It’s about the imperative to spend the federal Covid-19 relief money on something that delivers tangible value. Here’s an excerpt:

Urban advocates have long sought more federal money for cities. Now, they are getting it – bigtime. The aid being provided to cities under the coronavirus relief act represents a major test of the thesis that federal aid can be transformative for urban America. Cities should make the most of this opportunity. If they can use these funds to move the needle on substantial change, this would create a strong case for future aid. But if the money is simply frittered away, there’s no reason to expect such extensive help in the future.

The American Rescue Plan contains $350 billion in funding for state and local governments. This includes $45.6 billion for large metropolitan areas. The quantity of funds for these bigger metro areas is significant. Birmingham, Ala., is getting $141 million, Phoenix nearly $400 million, Chicago a bit less than $2 billion.

These are very large sums, particularly when county-level funding is also taken into account. In the merged government of Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky., the “city” is collecting $240 million, plus another $149 million in “county” funding, a bit less than $400 million total. The independent city of St. Louis is getting almost $500 million.

Click through to read the whole thing.