American Rescue Plan Monies Coming to Local Governments

Guest Correspondence

Image from Pixabay

The American Rescue Plan is about to send a remarkable influx of federal dollars into local governments. The US Department of Treasury came out with guidance this week for $110.7 billion headed to county and city governments around the country. This is a pivotal moment for local governments and our quality of life and well-being.

According to the National League of Cities, $53,785,898.21 will be coming to Sarasota County’s four municipalities. The National Association of Counties indicate that Sarasota County government will be receiving $84,249,299, which is more than what was received last summer under the CARES Act.

These monies will be coming straight from the Department of Treasury and will not be passed through the state governments, which will get their own allocations over and above the county and city apportionments. According to Treasury, the counties in Florida will receive half of the funds this month and then half of the funds in one year.  They will have until the end of 2024 to obligate, but not necessarily spend, the funds.

Taxpayers should pay close attention to how these funds will be spent as there is broad flexibility as to how these funds can be used. 

Governments can choose to invest in their communities by addressing the negative impacts to workers, households, small businesses, mental health, essential workers and impacted industries caused by COVID. They can also invest in certain types of important specific infrastructure such as water (including wastewater and stormwater), sewer or broadband. 

For individuals and families, the monies can be used for aid for food, housing, or job training for the unemployed. Treasury guidelines specifically mention the challenges and disproportionate impact communities of color and low-income families face.

Funding can be used for loans, grants, in-kind assistance and counseling for businesses. The Treasury department specifically singles out the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors as being eligible for support. 

Alternatively, local governments can choose to aid themselves. If they had a loss in revenue due to the pandemic, they can replace it. Or, they can choose to use the money to support government’s public health and safety obligations.

We are thankful our local governments are transparent and collaborative with our residents, businesses and non-profits in deciding where this money goes. We know it will start with a business plan. The plan will consider both the need created by, and continuing impact of, COVID-19.

We are looking forward to watching the cooperative public discussions of goals, measurables, deliverables, and outcomes of this money. This plan will most definitely lead to public confidence and a faster local economic recovery.

Christine Robinson is executive director for The Argus Foundation.

Image from Pixabay

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