Commissioners banking American Rescue Plan funds

·3 min read

Jun. 2—Pittsburg County commissioners took a couple more steps regarding the American Rescue Plan funds that have come to the county — but they say they're not ready to spend the money.

Pittsburg County is set to receive $8,429,278 in American Rescue Plan funds — and has already received the first half of the payment, totaling $4,239,639. The other half is scheduled to be sent next year, said Pittsburg County Commission First Deputy Sandra Crenshaw.

County commissioners passed a resolution during their regular weekly meeting authorizing Pittsburg County Treasurer Jennifer Lenox-Hackler to invest money from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and to apportion interest for the remainder of the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year.

"Invest it means to put it in an interest-bearing account," said District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith. Any interest from the money will go back into the American Rescue Plan accounts, not into the county's general fund, he said.

Commissioners will likely have to repeat the action authorizing investment of the funds again next month or soon thereafter, since the current 2020-2021 Fiscal Year ends on June 30 and the new 2021-2022 Fiscal Year begins July 1.

County commissioners named Commission Chairman/District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman and the commissioners' First Deputy Sandra Crenshaw as requisition officers for the American Rescue Plan funds. They also approved a letter naming commissioners' clerks Holly Sweetin and Casidhe Barrett as receiving officers for the American Rescue Plan money.

Following guidance of the State Auditor and Inspector's Office, commissioners have authorized two American Rescue Plan fund accounts: One for Capital Outlays and one for Maintenance and Operations.

Commissioners said they are still trying to determine how the American Rescue Plan funds can be used before they begin spending the money.

"We haven't made any decisions," District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith said after the meeting.

Smith said the county is still awaiting more directions on spending guidelines.

"There are some things that are very explicit," Smith said. However, there are plenty of gray areas, he added.

Commissioners previously said it doesn't look as if the money can be spent on roads.

Any future plans on how to spend American Rescue Act funds will be placed on an agenda and voted on by the county commissioners, Smith said.

U.S. Treasury Department guidelines regarding American Rescue plan funds state: "The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each government to meet local needs — including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers and the communities hardest hit by the crisis.

"These funds can also be used to make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure," the US. Treasury Department guidelines continue.

Smith perceives a lot of vagueness in those guidelines.

"You can't just go out and build a water plant," he said. He's of the opinion it would allow for things such as upgrading heating, cooling and ventilation systems in buildings owned by the county.

Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on March 10, with a House vote to reconcile with the Senate's version. President Joe Biden signed the bill the following day.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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