“This is a direct opportunity to help people in underserved communities to get into employment,” Higgins said.
Here’s a look at other key provisions included in the bill, which now moves on to the closely divided Senate.
Aid for other communities
While Buffalo and Erie County will benefit the most from the federal largesse, all major municipalities will get some money – and maybe even more than they need.
Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger was set to propose using some of the town’s $42 million in federal funds to rebuild sidewalks, only to hear that sidewalks might not qualify under the bill’s spending rules.
“We’re going to have a hard time spending $42 million with those restrictions,” Emminger said. Even though municipalities will have four years to spend the money, “we’re going to have to do some investigative work” to figure out how to do so, he added.
That issue arises in part because Congress based the federal grants not on a local government’s deficit, but on the basis of existing federal formulas that steer aid to less wealthy communities. If Congress had based the local aid strictly on budget deficits, Tonawanda wouldn’t have gotten any money, given that it ended its budget year with a surplus.
The generosity of the federal aid prompted howls from Republicans. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Senate Republican, told PBS this week that the bill takes “a shotgun approach to this that throws a lot of money out there at a time when every one of those dollars is borrowed.”