(The Center Square) – Spokane County will soon begin spending nearly half of the $101 million it has been allocated under US Bailout (ARP) funding.
The county has received half of its share of federal dollars and is preparing to release millions of ARP dollars for projects that provide economic, social or infrastructure benefits.
Community engagement and policy adviser Jeff McMorris presented a draft list of subcategories eligible for funding to commissioners Mary Kuney, Josh Kerns and Al French on Monday.
He said the subcategories complied with 43 pages of new guidance from the US Treasury Department. This agency oversees how a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in the spring of 2021 is spent.
Local governments were given five broad categories to fund. These include public health, economic support to households and businesses, services to disproportionately affected communities, bonuses for essential workers, broadband/water/sewer infrastructure and replacement of income.
The subcategories further define spending in the five areas and set an overall amount, McMorris said at the March 7 meeting.
Before going through the details of the list, he touched on the income replacement component of ARP funding.
McMorris said there is a specific formula for calculating sales taxes and other revenue entities have lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this formula, Spokane County could recoup $9.38 million for losses in 2020.
He said the money could be deducted from the existing ARP account and added to the general fund for discretionary use. These funds are not subject to the restrictions imposed on other HRA expenditures, but they cannot be used for prison operations.
Because the county sold a race track to the Kalispel Tribe in 2021, general fund revenue was increased enough to reduce the ARP reimbursement to about $3 million for that year, McMorris said.
He expects the ARP reimbursement funding level to return to around $9 million in 2022 and 2023, which is the final year for these claims.
The county has also been urged by federal authorities to withhold some of the money in case of urgent need. However, governments need to figure out how to spend their ARP allocations by the end of 2024 and the dollars need to be spent by the end of 2026, McMorris said.
On the new list of expense categories, McMorris noted that $2 million for providing administrative services and services was likely a one-time cost. He said the funding would be used for legal analysis of ARP requests, regular updating of the county’s website to provide transparency on how funding was allocated and staff time.
Nearly $3.5 million has been listed for public health needs, including mental health issues related to lockdowns, isolation and other pandemic legacies.
Affordable housing was awarded $4.5 million because a housing shortage had a negative economic effect on county communities, McMorris said.
Another $5 million was attributed to educational disparities, such as the provision of social and emotional services.
Nonprofits that fill gaps in service delivery within communities across the region can compete for $750,000.
Under an infrastructure classification, $5.5 million is allocated for stormwater improvements, $2 million for water conservation, $4 million for water updates drinking water, $500,000 for water storage, $2 million for the repair and maintenance of water and sewer systems and $5 million for local federal government twinning. broadband access dollars.
McMorris got the commission’s approval to make some minor changes to the list and present it for approval the following day.
He said that once the listing is given the go-ahead, formal Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will be prepared for each sub-category. He said the goal was to post the tenders on the county’s website, where any business or organization in the community could apply.
He said a RFP Selection Committee would be set up to review proposals that have been determined by legal analysis to meet the ARP criteria. There would be a scoring system to help with the approval process, he said.
He said there would be a public process involved in the decision-making, so the funding likely wouldn’t come until later in the spring.
The second pot of ARP funding for the county to disperse is expected to arrive in May, McMorris said.
French asked if funding was allowed to go to Airway Heights and Medical Lake to top up grants those towns had received for infrastructure work.
McMorris said the language of the ARP allowed discretion over how funding was distributed, so the list of subcategories could be changed at the request of the commission.
He said community engagement was an ongoing requirement of HRA decisions. To that end, he said the county received 15,000 survey responses last fall asking area residents how they wanted the money spent among five broad categories.
He said a new survey asked for specific projects to be funded, as well as the population group it would serve and the benefits it would bring. The new survey is posted at www.spokanecounty.org/arp.
While infrastructure funds would likely go to a government agency, McMorris said ARP funding could be used for projects undertaken by other entities already doing this work.