As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.
Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.
States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis. Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.
Though Biden signed the law in March, the Treasury Department didn’t release the money and spending guidelines until May. By then, some state legislatures already had wrapped up their budget work for the next year, leaving governors with no authority to spend the new money. Some states waited several more months to ask the federal government for their share.
The Treasury Department set an aggressive reporting schedule to try to prod local planning. It required states, counties and cities with estimated populations of at least 250,000 to file reports by Aug. 31 detailing their spending as of the previous month as well as future plans.
More than half the states and nearly two-thirds of the roughly 90 largest cities reported no initial spending. The governments reported future plans for about 40% of their total funds.