Clay County Administrator Stephen Larson provided the Clay County Commission with an overview the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) at their July 27 meeting. He explained that the bill which was passed by Congress on March 11, 2021 provides additional relief to address the continuing impact of the coronavirus on the economy, public health, state and local government, individuals and businesses. ‘State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds’ in the amount of $12,455,461 are allotted to Clay County through ARPA funding, with $6,237,185 received on May 19, 2021 and the remainder to be paid next year. The program is administered by the US Treasury but cities and townships under 50,000 residents may apply for ARPA funds through the state government.
The county commissioners continue to carefully plan expenditures utilizing the existing CARES Act Committee which now adds ARPA funding to their portfolio. The committee’s goal is to categorize funding needs and make decisions on how to apportion available funds that build on what was accomplished in the county through the CARES Act.
These funds may be used to support the following:
· Support public health expenditures related to Covid-19
· Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including harm to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries and the public sector
· Preplace lost public sector revenue
· Provide premium pay for essential workers
· Invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure
The ARPA funding period began on March 3, 2021 and will end on December 31, 2024. Funds must be allocated by December 31, 2024. All funds must be expended with completed work projects finished by December 31, 2026.
The board approved three funding requests utilizing ARPA funds.
· The correctional facility, represented by Administrator Justin Rogers, requested reimbursement for funds ($8,155.51) spent on Interactive Television (ITV) court. Because of the pandemic, all in-custody meetings were held through ITV. Additional equipment was required so that more than one court room could be used. The ITV system will continue to be in use for several types of hearings when the pandemic ends.
· Dara Lee, Clay County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Executive Director requested $180,000 from ARPA to support on-going responses to pandemic impacts. $100,000 will be used to continue working toward ending youth and family homelessness. $80,000 will be used to continue rehabilitation activities in Clay County. During the pandemic, HRA working with the City of Dilworth to apply to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for funding to rehabilitate 21 homes and 7 businesses in Dilworth. Les Bakke, HRA board member, expressed support for Lee saying, “Out of all the boards I’ve worked with, Dara Lee is, by far,a the best manager/director, I’ve worked for.”
· Clay County Facilities Director Joe Olson requested approval for the second half of the Facilities Capital plan which qualifies for $953,750 in ARPA funding. Projects include, heat pump tower replacement, sewage pump, HVAC controls, bathroom and court room remodels, air compressors and generators.
Commission Chair Kevin Campbell summed up plans for ARPA spending, “I think we need to make sure that everybody understands that there are multiple needs and we aren’t going to be able to solve everybody’s problems 100%. We are going to try to spread this around the best we can, based on the guidelines that are presented to us by the federal government.”