By John Boyanoski, Rosylin Weston and Chip Felkel
The State of South Carolina has roughly $6 billion dollars in relatively unexpected money to spend in the next five years due to the American Rescue Money.
Let’s not screw this up. That kind of infusion of funds can be used on transformative projects that truly help people in every corner of the state. It’s like hitting the lottery twice for this state so let’s not waste those funds.
We soon will start learning how this money may be spent as the members of the State Legislature convene for their new session this week. Almost every report states that money, and how to allocate it, will be on the top of everyone lawmaker’s list. The Post and Courier estimates this year’s spending packages are expected to top $16 billion, roughly double what legislators allotted from state taxes five years ago. This includes $2.5 billion in federal COVID aid from the American Recovery Plan passed by Congress last March.
Sounds great, but here is where the rubber meets the road. There aren’t a lot of rules attached to how the money can be spent and that can be beneficial, or create some significant headaches, if the projects and spending aren’t communicated and messaged effectively.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, local and state governments across the country can use the funds under three very broad categories: to fight the pandemic and support families and businesses struggling with its public health and economic impacts; maintain vital public services, even amid declines in revenue resulting from the crisis and build a strong, resilient, and equitable recovery by making investments that support long-term growth and opportunity.
The Treasury Department also gives some advice on what the money could be spent on.
- Replace lost public sector revenue by using this funding to provide government services up to the amount of revenue lost due to the pandemic.
- Respond to the far-reaching public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic by supporting the health of communities, and helping households, small businesses, impacted industries, nonprofits, and the public sector recover from economic impacts.
- Provide premium pay for essential workers while offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical sectors.
- Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, and make necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, to support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand affordable access to broadband internet.
But it is more than just spending the money on long-term issues. There is a strong issue of making sure the people of South Carolina understand that its government agencies are communicating to the people the keys and objectives of the expenditure. There is gathering genuine community support and trust from the people of South Carolina. There is conveying the right messages to the right groups in the right way. Buy-in is key and without a strategy and commitment to communication, local leaders may face misunderstanding or challenges to their decisions.
Let’s make sure there is an honest and open accounting of decisions. Let’s hope that city and county officials are at the table to help get matching funds to transform their communities and that the citizens in those communities feel good about the outcomes.
All of this means a lot of decisions need to be made in South Carolina. Let us hope the leaders take charge and don’t let this become a grab-bag of pet projects and wasteful spending to occur. Let’s hope that all South Carolina win on this one.
John Boyanoski, Rosylin Weston and Chip Felkel are principals in The Solutions Group. They bring together a unique skillset of communications, strategy and political acumen to help and assist agencies looking to transform. Learn more at www.thesolutionsgroupsc.com.