There’s at least an ounce of shame buried somewhere in the depths of Henderson city government.
Henderson Mayor Debra March recently announced that the city no longer planned to spend coronavirus relief money on a City Hall remodeling project. It’s a welcome reversal.
In early August, Ms. March and the City Council approved spending $2 million of CARES Act money on the renovation. The city received $30 million in federal money funneled through Clark County under the relief bill. CARES Act funding was intended to help local governments defray costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Local governments may also use the money to help businesses stay solvent. City officials claimed that expanding the City Hall lobby would help with social distancing and was thus a qualified expenditure under the federal legislation.
Making this scheme look even worse was that Henderson initially allocated only $1 million to a small-business grant program. North Las Vegas, which received $23.8 million in CARES funding from the county, allocated $3.25 million into a similar program.
If city officials could have left the public in the dark, they almost certainly would have had no qualms about moving forward. But they wilted under the sunlight. Less than a week after the Review-Journal’s Blake Apgar exposed their plans, Ms. March changed course. During a City Council meeting, she revealed that she had asked the city manager to find another way to pay for the lobby expansion.
“We have more to do to help our families in this community during these unprecedented times,” Ms. March said during a city council meeting.
Credit to Ms. March and city officials for reversing course. But this was something that never should have happened in the first place.
Henderson residents are facing the fallout from a global pandemic. Nevada has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The school district is making struggling students attempt digital learning without a computer or internet connection while parents scramble to arrange child care. But city elected officials just realized that federal relief dollars should go to struggling residents, not aggrandizing City Hall?
The city’s new plan is to dedicate more money to helping businesses and to support its Battle Born youth programs. Those programs allow students to do distance learning at local recreation centers. Ms. March said she wanted more funding to help families who couldn’t afford the daily $20 per child cost.
Good. It took awhile, but Henderson is finally spending CARES Act dollars to care for residents hurt by the coronavirus.