Part III: Urgency and Caution: How Soon Should Money be spent?

Key Points
  • Georgia is set to receive $17.4 billion in American Rescue Plan funds through 2024.
  • $4.8 billion of that goes towards the State Fiscal Recovery Fund that Gov. Brian Kemp has direct discretion over.
  • Georgia is unlike most states because the power over that fund is entirely the governor’s.

For Kanso, the urgency caused by the pandemic means it makes sense for the governor to have wide authority over the fund, though he’d like to see the legislature take a more significant role. “By no means is the full General Assembly represented,” he said. 

Kanso also thinks the governor should act swiftly to provide relief to those Georgians affected the most. “There's a responsibility to act for those families who are suffering when we have the resources in hand to do so,” he said.  

“I think it's fair to say that the state has been very slow to unveil its plans to use those ARP funds,” said Kanso.

Denson, of the GPPF, advocates for a more restrained approach to spending the money. Kemp should limit spending those funds first to cover any debts incurred throughout the pandemic, and then put funds towards projects that are "one-time only and do not commit or do not develop a program that comes at a recurring cost to the state,” he said.

“We don't believe there's a rush to spend this money unnecessarily, especially given the surplus that the state is running,” Denson said, adding that “prudence is probably the best course of action at this time.” 

Meanwhile, the GBPI’s polling of Georgians’ views showed that the public generally wants to see those funds used to assist public K-12 education funding, direct payments for low-income families, and restore state budget cuts that took effect last year.

Now, with the passage of Biden’s infrastructure bill through Congress, and more money heading Georgia’s way, more questions arise about how those will factor into how ARP money is spent. Kanso and Denson both indicated that because the infrastructure bill includes funding for water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, it is reasonable for Kemp and the committees tasked with awarding grants in those areas to proceed more slowly and cautiously. 

Still, Kanso sees the need for Kemp to act more immediately when it comes to relieving Georgians who might be hurting now because of the pandemic. 

“We are seeing plans develop as other states step up to the plate here, and you know the pandemic is not going to wait for this process to unfold,” Kanso said, adding “There's a responsibility to start to put details here, and to act with the urgency that reflects the challenges that we're dealing with.”

What do you think Gov. Kemp should do with the America Rescue Plan funds at his disposal? Share your thoughts and questions: [email protected].