CARES Act – Is the Money Going to Rural America?

A recent op-ed in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette made an interesting claim that the “$3 trillion in coronavirus aid isn’t heading to hometown America, but to large municipalities.”

Is that true?  My colleague Marc has a good take on the overall numbers.  There he concludes that rural states are taking in more per capita in coronavirus aid than our urban counterparts.  However, it’s worth adding some context.  First the CARES Act limits “direct payments” to a county, municipality, or basically any unit of government with a population that exceeds 500,000.  From a political perspective, it’s plausible that this requirement was added to the CARES Act so that 1) the federal government would have greater authority over the requirements necessary for large cities to access these funds, or 2) smaller communities would have a better shot at accessing the funds if the interface was their state instead of the federal government.  Indeed, the position I so often hear among small town leaders is a preference for local governance that better understands their unique needs. 

Regardless, the op-ed feeds off a familiar theme here in rural America; that we aren’t getting our fair share of federal money.  Well, as we all know, just because it’s a familiar theme doesn’t make it correct.  So many of the services I use in northwest Montana are heavily subsidized by the feds, including our broadband, airport, two hospitals, roads, Glacier National Park, the list just goes on.  So obviously this is a much bigger topic than one op-ed and we’ll be looking at it more closely in the coming months.