Editorial: Give suggestions to our local elected officials on how to spend $29.2 million in federal funds

In 2021 and 2022, Dalton and Whitfield County are getting a substantial injection of federal money.

All together, $29.2 million is coming to the two local governments in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act funding. The city of Dalton will receive $8.9 million while Whitfield County government will get $20.3 million. The two governments are moving cautiously in making plans to spend that money, which is part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill Congress passed in March.

Earlier this month, Board of Commissioners Chairman Jevin Jensen and Dalton Mayor David Pennington spoke to the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area about their plans for the cash infusion. Jensen said the federal rules outlining how the county can spend the money are complex and officials want to make sure they understand them completely before making major plans.

The ARP provides $1.9 trillion to state and local governments as well as local school systems and colleges across the nation. The city and county have each received half of their allotted funds. They will receive the second half next year and have until Dec. 31, 2024, to figure out how the money will be spent and until Dec. 31, 2026, to spend the money.

The county had only spent a small slice -- about $430,000 -- at the time of the meeting while the city had spent even less.

Jensen said, based on U.S. Treasury Department guidelines, ARP money can be spent on six broad items: broadband; relieving economic harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; premium pay for essential government workers; replacing government revenue lost due to the pandemic; public health; and sewer, stormwater and water infrastructure.

While city and county officials research exactly what they can spend the ARP money on, they are asking for your input.

Jensen said if residents have suggestions for projects that meet all of those criteria they can email them to him at jjensen@whitfieldcountyga.com. Pennington said if residents have suggestions on how Dalton should use its ARP funds they should contact City Administrator Andrew Parker at aparker@daltonga.gov. You can also contact any member of the board of commissioners or city council to voice your opinion. You can find their contact information at www.whitfieldcountyga.com or www.daltonga.gov.

Government works best when the citizenry is engaged. Speak up, and let your voice be heard. Your elected officials are waiting to hear from you.

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