Effort waives local match requirement for Erie Canal & Niagara Falls heritage areas
Congressman Brian Higgins joined a bipartisan group of more than 60 members calling to temporarily waive local fund matching requirements for all national heritage areas. This waiver would come at no cost to taxpayers and would enable national heritage areas to access already appropriated federal funds in order to better support their communities working to weather the COVID-19 crisis.
Higgins and other members signing the letter wrote, “As corporate, local and state governments commitments lag in the face of this economic turmoil, many National Heritage Areas will find it difficult to secure the required one-to-one match for federal funds. A temporary waiver will ensure every NHA can spend their appropriated federal funds without delay and will not be held back in helping their communities cope with this unprecedented situation.”
America’s national heritage areas revitalize local communities through heritage preservation and tourism. They leverage an average of $5.50 in local, state and private funding for every federal dollar invested to advance crucial community projects. The National Parks Service oversees 49 national heritage areas deemed to be nationally significant based on their unique natural, historic and cultural features. Western New York is home to two national heritage areas: the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area.
The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area was designated by an act of Congress in 2008 and continues to promote economic opportunity and tourism in the Greater Niagara Region. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area led the launch of the Discover Niagara Shuttle, visitor app, and Niagara Falls mural project, and contributed to the establishment of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center.
Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Executive Director Sara Capen said, "More than ever, the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area continues to be a catalyst within our communities bringing long-waited projects to fruition. It is important that the federal investment continues undeterred so our partners can be assured of our commitment to help in restoring a strong local economy during these challenging times."
The Erie Canal was first designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 2000. According to a 2016 report, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor generates $307.7 million in economic impact, supports 3,240 jobs, and generates $34.9 million in tax revenues.
“Heritage areas regularly act as economic drivers and can play an especially important role as local economies look to rebound from the downward slide caused by the coronavirus outbreak,” Higgins added. “Removing the outside match requirement ensures access to the federal funding national heritage areas are entitled to so they can continue the good work they do as resources in our communities are stretched thin.”
The bipartisan letter is supported by the Alliance of National Heritage Areas and National Parks Conservation Association.