HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) —President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, signed in March, is making its way to cities across the Rio Grande Valley, with Harlingen set to receive $22 million.
The funding is meant to help cities recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and improve infrastructure.
The city received the first installment of just under $11 million, $6 million of which the city commission voted to designate towards two drainage improvement projects. Those include Business 77 and 13th Street and Jefferson Street.
According to Commissioner District 2 Frank Puente, these locations are based on the city’s drainage master plan.
“So, it was kind of like a perfect storm, perfect timing to where we were able to use these funds for the obvious needs in the drainage issues that we have,” said Puente.
There are two other drainage projects on Lozano Street as well as Commerce Street that the city plans to tackle with its own budget.
The next largest expenditure, which is $3.2 million, is being used to provide the city’s waterworks essential employees with a one-time salary boost.
Puente said the salary adjustments are well-deserved, as these essential workers have taken on more responsibilities throughout the pandemic to help keep the city running.
“No one ever took any days off throughout the whole pandemic and the freeze,” said Puente. “They worked diligently to make sure services were provided for our citizens, so we’re really proud of the work they’ve done and we thought they deserved that.”
Employees should receive the pay raise by the end of June. The remaining amount from the first round of funding will be used on recouping lost revenue from the pandemic and conducting a broadband study.
The next half of the $22 million will not be given out until February or March of next year. When it arrives, Puente added he would like to see it spent on additional employee compensation and improvements to the city’s parks and recreations.
“I think we’re on the right track with using the funds where they’re being used right now,” he said.