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Most of us have seen our bank accounts take a bump up over the past week as funding from the American Rescue Plan gets distributed.

At $1,400 a person it is noticeable, and will either help people pay bills or spend on projects this summer.

While an extra $1.4K will come handy, it’s not quite $4.5 million — the amount the city of Ellensburg is set to receive.

Other local recipients of American Rescue Plan funds include: Kittitas County, $9.2 million; Cle Elum, $433,607 million; city of Kittitas, $326,627; city of Roslyn, $208,628; and town of South Cle Elum, $121,736.

It does not appear there will be the type of strings that typically come attached to federal funding. Public entities can spend it over a course of a couple of years and can use it to make up for lost revenue.

Few strings is good. Every entity is in a different position in regard to its budget. COVID hit tax revenues unevenly. People were still buying stuff, so there was sales tax, but the restaurants/bars, and tourist-oriented businesses saw sharp customer drops. Fewer people spending means less tax revenue in a state as sales-tax dependent as Washington.

Overall, the state fared better than expected in terms of tax revenue through the pandemic, but that does not mean each entity fared well. Smaller cities with smaller commercial bases probably felt a harder hit.

What this means is the discussion on how to spend the money will be different in Ellensburg, Cle Elum, Kittitas, Roslyn, South Cle Elum and Kittitas County because each entity felt the impact in its own way.

The hope would be that the focus of expenditures would be to repair any damage caused by the pandemic. The damage could be loss of revenue used to fund basic city services. If the money does nothing else but help cities survive without cutting services desired by residents, then it will have served its purpose.

Issues arise when expenditures extend beyond that scope. How peripheral to COVID can an expenditure be before it becomes not connected to COVID at all? And does that matter? If a city or county had a project it’s wanted to accomplish for years but lacked the funding, should it be dinged for taking advantage of this moment?

It’s like if one neighbor uses the $1.4K to pay off bills that accumulated when work hours were cut during COVID, and the other neighbor uses it to take the family on its dream vacation to Disneyland. Both of them are doing something they would not had been able to do without the COVID cash.

It’s safe to assume the cities and county will not be going to Disneyland, but there might be a public-expenditure equivalent to a trip to the Magic Kingdom.

The key is for the public to get involved. We, residents of Kittitas County, felt the pain of the pandemic restrictions. We know where we lost money and what it meant to lose the money, both in the short and long-term. What type of government action would make a difference?

These discussions need to take place so help can be directed where help is needed and we can all move forward in the recovery from this pandemic.

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