The end of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be finally, mercifully in sight. But even as the spread of the virus slows, we know that people in our cities are still ailing.
We are still contending with the closures of schools and small businesses. Our iconic cultural venues — including the Meyerson Symphony Center, the Bass Performance Hall, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Dallas Museum of Modern Art — struggled to get by when the curtains and doors were closed. Our cities boast incredible restaurants, but they have toiled in uncertainty, and so have their workers.
And vibrant and growing neighborhoods such as Dallas’ Deep Ellum and Fort Worth’s Near Southside have been effectively bottled up during the last year.
Through these challenges, the people of Dallas and Fort Worth have proved they are strong and resilient. And there is hope on the horizon for them. But North Texans continue to need big, bold, immediate help. The process of bringing our communities back to normalcy is a marathon, and we will need resources to get to the end of this long, difficult race.
Thankfully, in addition to extended unemployment benefits, assistance with food and housing and the $1,400 direct checks for working-class Texans, the American Rescue Plan recently approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden is bringing $11.6 billion to our state’s local governments.
Make no mistake, that incredible sum of money comes with significant responsibility. As local leaders, we look forward to putting this money to work in impactful and innovative ways and prioritizing getting that money out of the government coffers and into the communities.
That funding could help our public-safety efforts and will allow us to make crucial investments in new projects and programs with long-term benefits for our cities. The legislation also ensures the continuation of vital programs that began with CARES Act dollars, such as direct aid programs for small businesses and nonprofits and rent and utility assistance.
In addition, although we don’t oversee school districts, we know how important safe learning environments are to our cities. The American Rescue Plan provides the money necessary for our schools to safely reopen.
And most importantly, that money will give our local governments the tools we need to continue to help state and federal efforts to vaccinate Texans and bring an end to this pandemic.
These much-needed resources will be a huge boost and will help the robust Dallas-Fort Worth economy rebound much faster — while also lifting up the most vulnerable.
While we go to work implementing the American Recovery Plan, we need everyone to continue to do their part. Sign up to get the vaccine now, and don’t hesitate when it’s your turn within the next few weeks. For now, keep wearing a mask, wash your hands and stay socially distanced.
A year ago, when we began urging such precautions, we promised our residents that we would get through this together and that the pandemic would end. And now, with the full force of individuals, private entities and federal, state and local governments, we are able to foresee our recovery and readying to build a better future for North Texas.
Eric Johnson is the mayor of Dallas. Betsy Price is the mayor of Fort Worth.