The 20-acre Lockwood Folly District Park, at the corner of Green Swamp and Grey Water roads in Supply, North Carolina, has three baseball fields, a field for football or soccer, two tennis courts, a basketball court, three picnic shelters, and a playground. Thanks to funds from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA), it now also has $107,000 for repairs and upgrades. It’s one of six parks in North Carolina’s Brunswick County splitting $2 million for improvements, part of the $27.7 million allocated to the county. All the parks receiving money are located within or serve U.S. Census-Bureau-identified Qualified Census Tracts, in which at least half of the households live off an annual income before 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Brunswick County also allocated $3.4 million for public safety radio upgrades with its ARPA funds. Across the state line, York County in South Carolina allocated $51,800 to increase its 9-1-1 radio system capacity. Meanwhile, Georgia’s Cherokee County was able to use $154,000 of ARPA funds to purchase ten Lucas-3 CPR machines. The city of Mount Vernon, New York, was able to devote part of the more than $41 million it received in ARPA money to modernize its water and sewer infrastructure, which will remove pollutants and eliminate lead pipes in its aging system. In Cook County, Illinois, ARPA funds of more than $3.7 million will extend the life of the county’s health department’s lead program by three years.

We’ve been told, “The era of big government is over,” but for the kids and parents signing up for spring baseball league in Lockwood Folly, government probably doesn’t seem so big. To the families of people whose lives will be saved by emergency equipment upgrades, government probably feels like exactly the right size, coming along at exactly the right time. The impact of lead poisoning is far reaching and often irreversible. Lead abatement, especially where children are concerned, certainly can save a community lots of money but, more importantly, it can help save a generation.

All these expenditures are the result of the American Recovery Plan Act, an effort to address the numerous crises radiating from the Coronavirus pandemic, signed into law by President Biden in March 2021. Its passage was a moment when the nation, through our elected representatives, came together and recognized that there are some challenges that can only be met and overcome through the expression of our common will. Government—big government and small government—was the only thing that could meet the challenge. But ARPA funds are a one-time deal–they must be obligated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. Our common needs—health and safety, infrastructure to keep America moving, access to water to sustain life, education to keep democracy strong—continue.

In this new year, In the Public Interest will periodically highlight those instances of government addressing challenges that only government can or should address, ensuring the common good. Sometimes those challenges are as big as a worldwide pandemic, and sometimes they’re 20 acres along Green Swamp Road.

In Solidarity,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director

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