After months of discussion and reviewing eligible options, the St. Louis County Board soon is expected to vote on a conceptual framework of how best to invest the $54.5 million in federal funds the county is expecting to receive as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The county has already received $27.3 million in funds and expects to receive the same amount next year.
Commissioners will discuss the broad plans at their Committee of the Whole meeting tomorrow, Tues., Oct. 12. Assuming the resolution receives preliminary approval that day, then the Board would vote on the matter on Oct. 26.
ARPA funds are required to be used to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its economic impacts through four categories of uses:
To respond to the public health emergency;
Addressing its negative economic impacts;
Serving the hardest hit;
Improving access to water, sewer or broadband infrastructure
ARPA funds may not be used to offset a tax cut, deposit in pension funds, bolster rainy day funds, or pay debt service.
The County's proposed uses for the ARPA funds it's received include: $24.5 million to support the Public Health response to the pandemic and to invest in recovery initiatives, $1 million for business assistance, $11 million for water and sewer infrastructure, and $2 million for broadband infrastructure. In addition, $7.25 million is proposed for other eligible projects ranging from road and bridge funding to economic development investments. For now, $8.75 million will remain as uncommitted funds to allow flexibility to respond to new challenges or opportunities as the pandemic continues. Funds must be spent or committed by the end of 2024.
A further breakdown of proposed uses for these funds can be found online at stlouiscountymn.gov/ARPA.
To date, the County Board has already approved investing $2 million in broadband; and $5.2 million for school districts to implement the Check & Connect student re-engagement program (funds for this come from the $24.5 million allotted for public health response.) Once the Board approves the framework later this month, funding for any specific portion of the funds would still need additional Board approval.
Anyone wanting to provide input or feedback to the County Board has several options. People may attend and speak at either of the upcoming Board Meetings in October. The public also can contact their commissioner by phone or email. Contact information can be found online at stlouiscountymn.gov/countyboard; A third option is to email ARPA@stlouiscountymn.gov, and county administration will share comments with the Board.