Flexible federal grants worth $100K are available to Jasper County

Jan. 18—Jasper County is eligible to receive $100,000 in grants over two years with virtually no strings attached.

Jeff Davidson, executive director of JEDCO, asked the Jasper County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 10 to consider applying for grants from the Federal Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund. The county was contacted by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to let them know this program existed.

"In the bill was a spreadsheet that had 'Jasper County — $100,000′ on it. I turned this over to the Mid-Iowa Planning Association (MIPA), our organization we've belonged to for the past year, because they don't mind investigating stuff like this," Davidson said. "They'd never heard of it either."

Regardless, MIPA was able to determine that not only is Jasper County eligible for the funds, but all seven of the counties in MIPA — Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Marion, Polk, Story and Warren — are eligible for $100,000 from the program. All seven counties would be eligible for $50,000 in FY22 and again in FY23.

From what Davidson can see, the eligibility comes from the negative revenue impact due to the implementation of a federal program on Jasper County.

"The federal programs are the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program administered by the (U.S.) Department of the Interior and the Refuge Revenue Sharing program administered by the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)," Davidson said. "My hunch is that's probably where our eligibility comes in."

Jasper County is home to federal land in the form of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge just outside of Prairie City. Because it is nontaxable federal property, the refuge does not pay property taxes to the county. Laws passed in the 1980s recognized the financial impact this may have on local governments.

"Both MIPA and NACo highly recommend that we apply for these funds because they will just be distributed to the other entities if we do not apply for it," Davidson said, noting the grants are technically American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. "...But there's enormous flexibility with these funds."

The board of supervisors could spend the Federal Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund grants in the same manner as locally generated tax revenue.

"Any use for any governmental purpose, other than lobbying, Davidson said. "Lobbying is the one thing you cannot use them for."

The deadline to apply for the grants is at the end of January.

Supervisors were very much on board to apply for the grants.

"I don't often use the term 'money falling out of the sky,' but it kind of feels like it with this one," Davidson said.