[Background: The American Rescue Plan pass by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden contains $350 billion in funding for state, local, tribal and territorial governments to help with recovering lost funds as a result of losses due to the revenue shortfalls as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic.]
The initial federal COVID-19 Stimulus Bill signed on March 13, 2021 by President Joe Biden offers relief funding state and local government entities. The first relief money in the massive stimulus bill went to us normal people impacted by the pandemic. Another round went to businesses crippled by shut-downs or reduced capacities. Now, Washington, D.C. is offering a hand to state and local government entities who bore much of the responsibility of helping their citizens weather the storm but doing so with a reduced influx of dollars.
There’s a $350 billion set aside to help governors, mayors and other local leaders recover lost funds that stemmed from the public health emergency.
That includes $220 billion for states, territories and tribal governments. There is an addition extra $130 billion for metropolitan cities, localities and counties.
So, what was on Mono and Inyo counties, Mammoth Lakes and Bishop’s wish lists? Here’s a quick run-down, with the caveat there’s no guarantee the list will be fully funded. The turn-around from official notice to application deadline was short, like same day in the case of Mono County. The applications had to go through Representative Jay Obernolte whose office was receptive to submission after the deadline.
First, Inyo County requested $55,770,000 to widen U.S. Hwy. 395 from south of Olancha to north of Cartago, one of the last remnants of two-lane highway. That number is a little more than half of the total cost of $93 million. The balance of funding comes from state agencies.
For locals, this project needs no explanation. For D.C., Inyo’s application explained the conundrum of a 65 mph highway, cut to 55 and shrunk in half, noting frequent accidents, driver frustration, unsafe passing and a fatal accident rate 1.5 times the statewide average.
Inyo also requested $175,000 to cover the cost of furnishings and equipment for the Small Business Resource Center. The application lays out the purpose of the Center—to provide services and support for business start-ups that will “fill a critical need for living wage employment in Inyo County.” The Center already has financial backing in the form of a federal grant as well as a private investor.
Mono County’s request for $6.5 million for a radio communication project was also based on the unique geography of the East Side. The funding would go toward new radio handsets for first-responders and law enforcement as well as repeater towers. According to Chief Administrative Officer Bob Lawton, the current system is aging and there are significant dead spots, not just along U.S. Hwy. 395 but throughout the national forests. Rescue operations in the backcountry require reliable communication. Board Chair Jennifer Kreitz spoke to Obernolte’s staff to stress the public safety issues.
The City of Bishop requested $25 million for a new City Hall that would incorporate the Bishop police and fire departments, City Hall and the Inyo County Superior Court. The application letter outlines inadequate size and safety measures at the Bishop PD as well as lack of space for fire safety equipment and Emergency Medical Services in the fire department building, built in 1914.
The Town of Mammoth Lakes asked for $8,725,000 for three distinct projects. An eight-bay Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting snow removal maintenance facility at the Mammoth Yosemite Airport would provide cover for the equipment and a sheltered area for maintenance. The equipment is currently stored outside with significant issues during the winter. The town is requesting $5,125,000 for the facility
A request for $600,000 for design and construction of a community park in The Parcel affordable housing project outlined the commitment and existing grant funding for the entire project. A similar approach was taken for the $3 million request to cover Phase 2 of the Whitmore Track and Sports Field project, a 23.75 acre lease by the town near the Crowley Lake community. This phase would include a sports/concession building, paved parking, field lighting, picnic pavilion, a fitness station path and signage.
While the odds of all four entities having their requests fully funded are not great, the opportunity for funding any of the projects is worth the effort.