STEUBEN COUNTY, NY (WETM) – Steuben County has received $18 million from the American Rescue Plan, but there are many opinions on where these funds should be spent. While there are differing wishes for where this money will be spent, the common denominators from both sides of the aisle are COVID relief and infrastructure.
Steuben County Legislator Kelly Fitzpatrick hopes the funds will contribute to infrastructure projects but also, towards issues in Steuben County that have not gotten much attention, such as internet access.
“One of the big issues that continue to be of concern in Steuben County is the lack of high-speed internet access to some of our rural areas… believe it or not, even where I live in Savona, I don’t have access to high-speed internet,” said Fitzpatrick.
Another area Fitzpatrick thinks some of the funds should be invested in is housing projects. She thinks allocating the money to improving the quality of the available housing stock will act as a “domino effect.” She says better housing would attract more workers and potentially more jobs in the area.
Similarly, Shawn Hogan, Steuben County democratic chairman, agrees that COVID relief is the main priority, but he also wants the money to be transformative to the community.
“Whether it’s infrastructure work, creating a more green space in the community, addressing climate change issues… with the extra money, longstanding issues should be addressed in the community,” said Hogan.
The American Rescue Plan is primarily directed at COVID relief. Joe Sempolinski, Steuben County republican chairman, thinks that the plan should have focused only on COVID relief.
“[Steuben County] is getting 18 million dollars… where the losses from COVID is only 9 million dollars. The sums that [counties] are getting are far greater than the losses that were incurred,” Sempolinski said.
But now that the bill has already been passed, Sempolinski “hope[s] that the counties that receive this money spend it in the most responsible way possible. Filling in the losses and pay for capital infrastructure.”
The money will be distributed in parts, half given in 2021, and the remaining in 2022. The U.S. Department of Treasury has issued limits on what exactly each county can use its funds for. The committee’s first meeting to discuss where to allocate these funds first will be sometime in July, but the county will have three years to decide where all of the money will be invested in.