Dalton receives $4.5 million in relief funds with more coming; Whitfield County expects some money soon

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Jun. 4—The city of Dalton has received some $4.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill passed by Congress in March.

"That's this year's allotment," said Mayor David Pennington.

The city expects to receive a total of $10.9 million during the next two years.

Whitfield County officials say they have not yet received their 2021 funds under the act.

"I know some other counties have started to receive them, so we should get our funds soon," said county Board of Commissioners Chairman Jevin Jensen.

The National Association of Counties told Whitfield County officials the county should receive about $20.3 million over two years.

Local governments have also started to receive tentative guidelines from the federal government about how those funds can be spent. They can be spent on things directly related to COVID-19, such as pay for first responders.

"You are also allowed to spend money on infrastructure," said Jensen. "Sewer, water and broadband are perfectly allowed, even though it's not directly COVID-19 related."

The county has asked for feedback from residents on how it should spend its share of that money. Jensen said one thing that has come up is expanding sewer into the county.

A four-year, $66 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) approved by voters last year includes $4.9 million for sewer expansion to the Carbondale interchange, the Connector 3 interchange and north along Cleveland Highway to about Frontier Trail to encourage economic development in those areas.

"Maybe we can enhance that, and we are going to look into that," said Jensen. "As far as things that are directly related to COVID-19, one of the things we are looking at is upgrading county buildings with heating and cooling air filtration and UV (ultraviolet) light that can really filter out or kill bacteria and viruses before they recirculate in the air."

Pennington said one thing city officials plan to use their money on is stormwater control. He said he did not know how much would be used for stormwater or what particular projects it will be used on.

"It's still early in this process," he said.

Some Dalton residents said Friday they hope local officials make sure they take care of any COVID-19-related needs before spending the money on anything else.

"Talk to the charities, see where the needs are," said Anita Lopez. "Make sure those who are still sick or have lost their homes are OK."

Walt Reynolds said he'd like to see local governments more prepared if another pandemic happens.

"Is there anything the health department or the fire department or (the Emergency Management Agency) needs?" he said.

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