BOISE, Idaho — In a virtual press conference Thursday, Governor Brad Little announced billions of dollars allocated for Idaho from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will go into long-range investments that will benefit future generations. Little said he will work with the Legislature in allocating the funds and will travel around the state to meet with legislators, business groups and others on the best ways to invest the funds.
States have almost four years to spend most of the ARPA funds. Little says we should take our time and be strategic about how the funds are allocated. Little also said to wait for U.S. Treasury guidance and study the impact of other programs to make sure the gaps are covered. Some of the direct funds to agencies, mostly K-12 public education, are legally required to be allocated within 30 to 60 days.
A news release said Little expressed his concerns with the recent federal spending bill but said rejecting the money is not the right thing to do for Idaho.
“Rejecting the funds would mean California, New York, Illinois, and other big states get to spend Idahoans’ tax dollars," said Little. "Rejecting the funds would mean Idaho gives up our say in how our allocated share gets spent. That is unacceptable. Therefore, Idaho will accept the allocation for our state."
State and Local governments will get $1.89 billion in discretionary funds, according to the release. The breakdown of the funds is as follows:
- $1.89 billion in discretionary funds
- $1.188 billion to the state for COVID-19 response
- $126 million to the state for COVID-19 capital projects
- $347 million for county governments and $229 million for city governments
- $981 million for direct programs ranging from K12 to childcare grants
More than $2 billion will go to direct support to businesses and individuals. The release says this includes stimulus checks and other economic support like PPP loans and support for restaurants and live venues. The release did not specify who or what businesses will be eligible for this money.
"The funds are mortgaged from our grandchildren, and Governor Little said we should make long-range investments that will serve to better their chances and opportunities since they are burdened with paying off the debt," stated the release.
Little said the use of funds should not impede our constitutional mandate to provide a long-term, balanced budget. Instead, they should do the opposite and lower the state's capital and deferred maintenance costs. The funds should also not duplicate other federal programs where is support is provided to specific industries or through specific programs.
Gov. Little also prioritized that one-time funds should go to one-time expenses. Little said he will not create obligations that would be shifted to the general fund once federal funds run out.
“When the CARES Act funds arrived last year, we were in the throes of a crisis. We were dealing with a new virus and had little knowledge of the extent of its impacts. We had little testing, no treatments, too little PPE for hospitals and workers, and no vaccine. We needed to act quickly in deploying federal resources so we could prepare for the worst. That is why we set up the Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee – made up of legislators and others – to recommend the best ways to use the funds to quickly respond to the crisis. We had only nine months to spend the CARES Act funds, and we did so responsibly and transparently," said Little.