Last summer, Lincoln County received half of designated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and officials expect the rest to be deposited soon. But what to do next is always a question supervisors think about.
This was the atmosphere Tuesday at the Lincoln County Supervisors meeting: The county may be considering a financial windfall, but where should the funds go? Roads? First Responders? Building renovations?
What good questions.
Butler Snow consultant Parker Berry spoke to supervisors on Tuesday about ARPA spending options, requirements, rules and regulations.
In March 2021, Congress passed ARPA as a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill. ARPA then spawned the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund which has earmarked $350 billion for states, municipalities, counties, tribes and territories across the country, including $130 billion for local governments, to be spent evenly across counties and municipalities.
Mississippi alone will receive more than $1.8 billion, and its 82 counties and approximately 300 municipalities will share more than $500 million based on certain prorated (proportional) formulas.
Lincoln County is considering $3.3 million, which will be in addition to the $3.3 million it already received last summer. Since then, this money has been simmering intact in an interest-bearing account.
County Attorney Will Allen said there was a reason the money hadn’t been touched. “That’s why we have [consultants] come talk to us,” Allen told District 1’s Jerry Wilson, who said the money needed to be spent before “we lose it.”
ARPA allows money from the funds to be used to pay legal consultants and administrators, and that’s where Butler Snow came in. Perry attended the meeting to discuss how his company could help supervisors navigate the confusing and often strict formulas needed to properly spend funds. .
Fund funds are to be committed by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026 in four main categories:
- respond to the COVID-19 public health pandemic and its related negative economic impacts
- salary bonus for essential workers
- loss of government revenue
- investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, or all three
“Most counties will use the funds for lost revenue,” Berry said. “[However, like anything else]you need to record everything – documentation is key.
Last fall, the Treasury Department created a conclusive “final rule” that stated that a standard submission of up to $10 million could be spent on “lost revenue.” This means that entities could then spend the money on things they would have spent it on had the revenue not been lost due to COVID-19 interference.
The Treasury Department’s “final rule” is an aspect of the law that arises after public input to the “initial final rule.” This – final – final rule “then provides greater flexibility and simplicity in the program, in response to feedback in the feedback process:
Among its clarifications and changes are the following:
- Replacement of lost public sector revenuewhich provides a standard Earnings Loss Benefit of up to $10 million, allowing recipients to choose between a standard Earnings Loss amount or a full Earnings Loss Calculation.
- Public health and economic impactswhich clarifies that recipients may use funds for capital expenditures that support eligible public health or economic response COVID-19, such as the construction of certain affordable housing, daycares, schools, hospitals and others projects that meet the requirements of the final rule.
- Significantly expand eligible investments in broadband infrastructure to address challenges related to access, affordability and reliability.
Berry said his company doesn’t take a percent off the price, unlike other companies. “We work on time; you use us as much or as little as you want,” he said.
At one point, the District 1 Supervisor said “If we sit on this money, we’re going to lose it”, to which County Attorney Will Allen replied “that’s why Perry came to talk to us – so that we know the rules of how to spend the money before we spend it. Wilson asked why another company that had planned to run for the board hadn’t done so yet. Other supervisors said that ‘no other entity had been put on the agenda, but that in order to spend the funds properly, the board had to act in some way regarding whether or not to hire a consultant .
Berry said Butler Snow could help determine eligibility, assist with reporting, drafting contracts and resolutions, creating and administering sub-recipient programs, and compliance documentation with guidance.