Letter to the Editor
State Auditor Vows Transparency for Federal Stimulus Money Coming to West Virginia
On Thursday, March 11, President Biden signed into law the most recent round of “stimulus dollars” designed to combat the societal and fiscal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you agree with the passage of this bill or not, the money is coming and this 1.9 trillion-dollar package is as far-reaching as it is large. Importantly, it differs from previous packages in several important ways. From the auditor’s office standpoint, the biggest difference is that it allocates funding to city and county governments without direction from the state government.
From the beginning, of the lengthy debate on this bill, our office has monitored progress, maintained communication with our stakeholders, and planned to ensure maximum effect will be felt by the citizens of West Virginia. This internal process has produced several tangible results.
First, we have created a small division within our office to maintain expertise on the fluctuating regulations that go along with this money. We have learned from the first rounds of stimulus money the ways in which this money can be used changes sometimes daily, and we endeavor to ensure our local governments will have the most up-to-date and accurate guidance as to how this money is spent and accounted for.
Further, and more importantly, this new division will be tasked with implementing a novel program that will allow cities and counties to pool these funds in a way that will enable them to tackle large-scale infrastructure projects. It is our vision this money will be used to upgrade crumbling water and sewer systems, repair roads, and provide needed 5G and other broadband programs to underserved areas.
Lastly, as with the initial round of stimulus money, we will use state-of-the-art accounting technology to ensure this money is spent transparently. We know from years of experience the key to accountability and efficacy is transparency. Each citizen of our state deserves to know how their hard-earned tax money is being spent.
According to our state’s constitution, West Virginia is not allowed to maintain indebtedness without a vote of the people. This important fact to understand is our state does owe a debt, a debt created by years of neglect for maintenance of the mandatory infrastructure that both maintains livability and enables economic growth. We believe our plan will enable our local governments to satisfy this debt to our citizens and use this one-time money in a way that will benefit our citizens for generations to come. It is our greatest fear history will repeat itself, and we will be 10 years down the road asking, “where did all that money go?” We will do everything in our power to avoid this pitfall and have amazing local government partners committed to success.
This week we will be taking our initial steps implementing this plan, and it is my plea to the people of West Virginia to stay informed, use the information we provide, and hold your elected officials accountable for the spending of your money. This is a generational opportunity. We can maximize it together.
John B. McCuskey