EDITORIAL: Looking for a rescue

FOR MANY, LAST YEAR’S LOCKDOWN squeezed the dimensions of the world into a home, a car and a video screen. That ignores a presidential election and personal milestones. But you get the point. The pandemic lingers and yet the switch has been set to the “On” position. Now, suddenly, it feels like way too much is happening.

We can recite the big issues by heart though few of us have enough memory cells to keep track of all the threats. And who’s counting, anyway? Probably only those who depend on others—government programs, charities and us, their neighbors—to see them through to better times or just to make it to the week ahead. But while there are many acts of generosity there are also times when the need is great but the donors are tapped out. What then?

Two weeks ago Diane Valden reported on the Ancramdale Neighbors Helping Neighbors Association in the Town of Ancram. One of the projects of that volunteer organization is to pick up a ton, literally, of food each week in Albany and haul it to the association’s food pantry at an Ancramdale church. Right now it’s feeding 90 people.

What Ancramdale Neighbors needs is a panel van to make the weekly run to the Regional Food Bank in Albany. Normally that would require either a community fund drive or some sort of private philanthropy to acquire the vehicle. But nobody has stepped forward with that kind of money. So the town government has decided to help with funds for the van and money to operate the vehicle.

If it’s that easy, why even bring it up? The answer is because there’s another partner in this project, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It’s $1.9-trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021.

As part of ongoing coverage of the impact of ARPA funding, Emilia Teasdale reports in this issue on what types of projects are eligible for this federal funding, how the money will be handled, a rough indication of how much towns and villages will receive and what they plan to do with the money.

It’s not clear yet that the van for the Ancramdale Neighbors group will qualify for this new source of government funds. But one of the purposes for this program is to support public health expenditures. So let’s hope that providing people access to healthful food is considered a matter of public health.

It’s been nearly five months since the ARPA bill became law and the funds apparently have not yet filtered down to the smallest municipalities, which is what we have in this county. County government has received half of the $11 million designated for it under ARPA.

The relatively slow pace is not surprising when you remember that when President Biden was vice president, he was in charge of seeing that none of the federal funds for recovery from the Great Recession of 2008-09 were wasted. But it’s time now for all the towns and villages to receive the money authorized.

Contact Representative Antonio Delgado (D-19th), Senator Charles Schumer (D) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D) and ask them when ARPA funds for your town or village will be released. How about your state representatives too? While you’re at it, ask your town or village board too. Our federal elected officials worked hard to create this program, but their job is not yet done.

The problems we face do feel overwhelming. That’s why the funds to start fixing them are called a “rescue act.” As taxpayers, it’s our money. We have a duty to use it (and more) as we go about the process of rescuing ourselves.

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