When Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann called it a once-in-a-generation windfall for the state, its cities and counties and urged local governments to focus on infrastructure projects.
During the 2022 legislative session, the state set aside $850 million for water and sewer projects in cities and counties. Cities and counties who use their own ARPA funds for qualifying projects can get matching dollars from the state.
That appropriation sent a clear message to cities and counties who want to maximize their own ARPA dollars — a chance to double their APRA spending power through those matching funds.
In some cases, this may present local governments with difficult choices, especially for projects that are not eligible for matching funds but are otherwise important to their communities.
That’s a scenario the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors will discuss at its board meeting on Monday after learning this week that the county’s plan to repair the dam at Oktibbeha County Lake does not qualify for state matching funds. Oktibbeha County received $9.6 million in ARPA funds. With an estimated cost of $15 million to $17 million to repair the dam, the supervisors had planned to use state matching funds to cover the balance of that cost.
This new development means supervisors may have to choose between projects that do qualify for state matching funds or commit to a dam project without state funding.
One example has already emerged. In May, supervisors tabled a request for $1.7 million in ARPA funds to assist the East Oktibbeha Wastewater District’s infrastructure expansion down Old Highway 25. The project would qualify for a dollar-for-dollar match from the state’s ARPA program.
Supervisors will have to weigh the opportunity to double their spending power on projects that qualify for state matching funds against spending money on “go it alone” projects.
We believe Hosemann’s once-in-a-generation declaration. This opportunity can be maximized by pursuing projects that can be supported with matching funds.
While we acknowledge that some “go it alone” projects are important enough to pursue, the opportunity to leverage those dollars to maximum effect should be given every consideration.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.