Capito Tours Infrastructure Needs in W.Va.
CLENDENIN – U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., made a trip to the small town of Clendenin on Tuesday, a poster child for the infrastructure needs of many communities across the state of West Virginia.
Capito joined Clendenin Mayor Kay Summers on a tour of the small Northern Kanawha County community that was ravaged by historic flooding in 2016. Five years later, Clendenin is still rebuilding and preparing for the next big flood.
“I think it’s heartening to see everything what’s been done, but disheartening to see what still needs to be done,” Capito said. “I think that working with FEMA, Clendenin and local leaders have done a great job, but you see we still have a ways to go.”
The community along the Elk River has already experienced two floods since 2016, though none as catastrophic as that 1,000-year flood. Millions of dollars from FEMA and U.S. Housing and Urban Development have poured into the state and communities to rebuild destroyed homes and businesses since 2016, with additional funding for flood mitigation.
Now, Clendenin and cities, towns, and county governments will receive funding through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. West Virginia’s larger metro cities will receive $175.8 million, counties will receive $347.6 million, and smaller towns will receive $153.2 million. The funding is divided out based on population size.
While the funding is meant to go towards COVID-19-related expenses, the funds can also be used for water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure projects. Clendenin would like to use a portion of its $460,000 allotment for flood gates for the city building that also doubles as a feeding facility for the community’s senior nutrition program. Summers said the $460,000 is appreciated, but more help is needed.
“That could be spent in three days just on things we have to have,” Summers said. “It’s tough. Everything we do, we have to document and get approval for whatever the case is.”
State Auditor J.B. McCuskey is working with counties and cities to provide guidance for how they can use their American Rescue Act allotments, but the U.S. Treasury Department has still not issued any guidance on what projects the funding can be used for.
Capito said many of the infrastructure needs of Clendenin and other cities and counties in the state are addressed in the Republican Roadmap infrastructure proposal. The $568 billion plan would focus exclusively on traditional infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, public transportation, rail, drinking water and wastewater, ports and waterways, airports, water storage, and broadband.
“What I would like to do, too … is to be able to open this up — since I’m working on the infrastructure package — to more types of infrastructure,” Capito said. “If (Summers) has a bridge or some roads that need repaved or something of that nature, she can use that either for a match or to flat-out do the project herself or maybe even with the county.”
Capito and Senate Republicans are negotiating with the White House and trying to find a middle ground for an infrastructure package. Biden proposed an all-encompassing $2.3 trillion package aimed at traditional infrastructure projects and non-traditional items, such as funding for home healthcare, incentives for purchasing electric vehicles, and job training.
Biden and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain invited Capito and her colleagues this week to discuss infrastructure. Capito said that meeting will likely take place next week when lawmakers are back on Capitol Hill. Capito said she talked with the President last week and believes he wants to have a serious conversation with Republicans.
“I think the President is serious about wanting to negotiate with Republicans, and we’re certainly serious about where we think core physical infrastructure needs to be,” Capito said. “So, we’re going to have that conversation. We are negotiating with our staffs right now and I’m cautiously optimistic.”