WAUSAU — Scores of Wisconsin residents and others across the country were greeted Wednesday morning with their third stimulus check from President Joe Biden’s U.S. bailout — and that financial support doesn’t stop at individual bank accounts.
As the country begins to reap the benefits of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill, passed in the U.S. Senate on March 6, Wausau is expected to get about $15.75 million from the relief package.
The state government will receive about $3.2 billion, in addition to the additional $2.5 billion in direct assistance to counties and municipalities.
Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg said the city is still in “big dream mode” to decide who, where and what the multimillion-dollar financial support will go to, in part because many cities don’t have still have not received advice from the federal or state government on restrictions. to financing.
Rosenberg said the majority of the money will most likely go to public health and rebuilding the economy, funneling it to households, small businesses and nonprofits negatively affected by the pandemic. It could also go to affected industries like tourism, travel and hospitality.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Rosenberg said. “There’s an opportunity to be transformational. We want to make sure we’re pushing him towards the right things.”
Like most Republican members of the House, Rep. Tom Tiffany, who represents the region encompassing Wausau, voted against the package. In a statement to USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, the Hazelhurst Republican said the only thing that was bipartisan about the spending bill was opposition to it.
“Most of the bill – some $1 trillion – was a purse of taxpayer bailouts for mismanaged pensions and states like Illinois and New York that strangled their own economies and hundreds of millions of others for Liberal priorities and pet projects that have little to do. do with COVID, like subsidized art and museums,” Tiffany said.
Congressional Republicans and Republican state legislative leaders opposed the funding; state legislators have attempted to control spending of federal COVID-19 relief funds in early March through a bill that Governor Tony Evers vetoed.
Evers said the proposal would slow the distribution of needed relief and put lawmakers who were skeptical of the COVID-19 threat and mitigation measures in control of determining where relief funds go.
“We’re in a pandemic — we have to make decisions in a timely manner,” Evers said in December of his concern about granting vetoes to lawmakers.
Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, whose district includes parts of central Wisconsin, was one of three members of the state’s congressional delegation to vote for the U.S. bailout. He told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin that he is working to provide local governments with more clarity on where that money is going.
While it’s unclear exactly when the funding will arrive in Wausau and other Wisconsin cities (California cities will receive the relief money in two batcheseach about a year apart, within the next 60 days), Kind said the money was to be used by the end of 2024.
Rosenberg understands that some people may be “philosophically opposed” to the relief program, but she believes that ultimately it will help cities and their residents. The challenge, she added, is to use the funds effectively.
“Last year was a crazy year and a lot of damage was done to families, to businesses. Hopefully this is an opportunity to reinvest in ourselves,” Rosenberg said.
The funds will most likely focus on economic recovery, according to the mayor of Wausau, but there are several other potential ways the funds could be spent:
- Wage premium for essential workers
- Wausau Cares Scholarships
- Make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure
- To fill the gaps in the city budget
- Partnership with the county, other municipalities and/or non-profit organizations
Rosenberg said once the city receives more specific instructions from the Treasury Department, discussions will take place with the city’s finance and citizens’ advisory committees.
“There are definitely opportunities for citizens to give feedback on what it looks like. It will be transparent and people will be able to weigh in,” Rosenberg said. “It’s been a crazy year, and we have to do something.”