Southern W.Va. leaders meet in Logan to discuss stimulus funds

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 10:46 PM EDT
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LOGAN, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Just like neighbors waiting for their $1,400 stimulus check, city and county officials in Logan say they need some questions answered.

“We’re all asking the same questions, we all have the same goals, we all want to do the same things,” said Logan City Clerk Amber Belcer.

As federal officials say American Rescue Plan funds are coming to local governments this week, they also say there is very specific guidance on what those funds can be spent on.

West Virginia State Auditor JB McCuskey says the COVID-19-related spending reimbursements shouldn’t be a problem in the southern part of the state.

“What you’re going to find is that our local governments really buckled their belts tighter last year and they did a great job of being frugal with their money,” McCuckey said. “So a lot of the COVID-related expenses that many of the other places are going to see the need for, we’ve already covered.”

With thousands and even millions coming into these communities, several local leaders met in Logan Monday to determine what opportunities may be on the horizon.

“You know, all our towns are the same,” said Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti. “We’re all old. Infrastructure’s bad everywhere, every town.”

Luckily, federal officials say those types of infrastructure projects are the only non-COVID-19 spending that can be made. Local officials say they will be working across city and county lines to make sure it’s done.

“I think every municipality, every county,” Belcher said. “We all have infrastructure needs, we all have demolition wants. There’s so much that we all want to do that’s all the same. It’s all around the state, really.”

With these different projects comes a new kind of accountability. The state says that what these funds are used for must be monitored in a way that neighbors can easily find out what dollars were used for which project.

“What we’re trying to avoid is getting 10 years down the road and everyone in West Virginia asking, ‘what happened to that billion dollars they gave us?’” McCuskey said. “That is the pattern our state has been in.”

While current guidelines are still vague, state, local and federal leaders say this is gives southern West Virginia a chance to fix some of its biggest problems.

“This is going to give us, particularly our cities and counties a very unique opportunity to fix the problems that they know need fixed without having to go through some bureaucracy and a rigmarole above them,” McCuskey said.

Federal officials say that local leaders will have until 2024 to spend money from the American Rescue Plan.

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