A recent editorial in The Forum advised that North Dakota should invest the $700 million received from the American Rescue Act wisely.
The editorial highlighted a number of projects in which the state might invest federal monies such as soybean crushing plants, carbon capture projects and hydrogen production. These projects sound very important and likely will have major impacts on the economic future of our state. Unfortunately, none of the projects mentioned in the editorial have anything to do with mitigating the impacts of future pandemics or the damage inflicted from the current pandemic.
Gov. Doug Burgum outlined a plan for investing in projects designed to address the state’s workforce shortage. However, the strategies for using this federal money should prioritize methods for combating future pandemics.
For example, investments in distance education and remote learning should be made. Infrastructure like high speed computer networks and the training teachers in techniques to maximize the efficacy of distance education would be a good start. North Dakota is a rural state and not all schools can provide the same opportunities. Thus, our children can benefit from greater educational opportunities delivered by distance education. Also, what about major investments in the air handling systems that exist in our public schools to increase the safety and health of the children?
Lastly, the federal money could be used to support public health initiatives and to reinforce our hospital systems for handling future pandemics.
Conservative pundits and legislators are quick to criticize the spending of the federal government until it comes time for them to open their arms and accept federal money. The money from the American Rescue Act should not be viewed as “free money” from the federal government to fund pet projects of the Governor and North Dakota Legislature. The money should address the problems caused by the pandemic and help to develop infrastructure and plans for addressing future pandemic-related problems.
Tom Petros is a resident of Grand Forks.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.