June 3, 2021

Accomack and Northampton counties are slated to receive a total of $8.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the ESVA Chamber of Commerce is urging the counties to take a long-term perspective with its investment. 

“The U.S. government wisely provided a great degree of flexibility in not only what these funds can be spent on, but when they need to be spent. We have until the end of 2024 to obligate them and 2026 to spend them. They did that for good reason, giving us lots of time to invest this funding thoughtfully,” says Robert Sabbatini, Executive Director of the ESVA Chamber.

Even more, the ESVA Chamber is proposing a plan. Chairman of the Board Will Russell says, “We’ve gone the extra step and are bringing a solution to the table. Our proposal includes a way to assess options, prioritize, and create a roadmap.” The chamber is urging both counties to work cooperatively and invest in areas that will bring a future return to its citizens. “They expect it,” Russell says. “By investing properly, our citizens can receive a benefit many times in size in future years.” Incorporated towns are receiving funds as well and should explore how they might collaborate with neighboring towns to increase funding impact.

The ESVA Chamber proposes focusing on areas that have two characteristics: broad impact and long-term benefits. “A rising tide lifts all boats. By investing wisely in broad, long-term projects, all residents will benefit,” Russell says. “Specific areas for the counties to consider are:

  • Affordable housing
  • Childcare access
  • Transportation
  • Broadband internet access
  • Skilled labor development and workforce training
  • Reducing energy costs
  • Economic development

But that is not all. Since labor shortages are dire heading into critical summer months, the ESVA Chamber proposes a portion of this money be utilized to offer incentives to citizens that come off unemployment and re-enter the workforce. 

Finally, they urge the board of supervisors from both counties to set aside at least 20% of this funding for strategic, long-term investments in a regional effort. To determine the best means to invest this 20%, the ESVA Chamber would convene a commission of leaders from across all sectors of ESVA industry, hear proposals, create a strategic investment plan, and present this plan to the board of supervisors for their approval. “Our board and our members represent all industry sectors across the Shore. We already have the mechanism in place to do this,” Sabbatini says. “It’s why we exist. It’s what we do.”


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