Federal Stimulus Offers a Chance for Local Reinvention

Cities around the country are making big plans for economic relief funding from the federal government.

April 21, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Birmingham, Alabama

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

"Across America, cities that were cash-strapped and beleaguered only months ago now find themselves flush with money and ready to spend," writes Griff Witte.

"Researchers who study American cities say leaders are right to think big and creatively, once they’ve filled the gaps created by the pandemic," adds Witte. "The influx of money as part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is unlike any that cities have seen in decades, with relatively few restrictions attached to its use."

The article cites the pandemic financing experiences of Birmingham, Seattle, and St. Louis as evidence of the transformational potential of the economic relief funding, which has come in waves since March 2020, and with varying levels of attention to local budgets. The most recent relief package, the American Rescue Plan, was signed into law by President Joe Biden with $350 billion for state and local aid.

Birmingham, as an example of local response to the relief package, was facing a $63 million budget hole that has since been plugged by $148 million from its portion of that American Rescue Plan total. Witte reports that the Alabama city of 200,000 will prioritize the money for investments in minority-owned businesses, the construction of affordable housing, and support for mental health care.

"It’s a fundamental game-changer for our city," says Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin (D) in the article.

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