Jul. 16—OLIVIA — Providing grants to help develop more child care services, expanding broadband and improving mental health services are among the needs that Renville County intends to target with its share of American Rescue Plan funds.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Renville County Board of Commissioners approved the recommendations of a county committee that looked at how to invest American Rescue Plan funds. The current recommendations total $1,511,000, or just over one-half of the total amount the county is expected to be allocated from the federal economic stimulus package.
The county has received its first installment of $1,412,889, and County Administrator Lisa Herges said she expects the county to receive an equal allocation in the next 12 months.
The county committee identified the priorities for the first allocation of funds. The commissioners unanimously approved the recommendations, but noted that they were subject to change.
The proposed allocations (listed below) include funding for a temporary staff position to help oversee their use. The county administrator said the county must account for its use of the funds to the federal treasury. This will likely demand more staff time and attention than was the case in the use of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, which were administered by the state.
Herges said the staff person would also be available to assist townships, which are also eligible for American Rescue Plan funds. It's also hoped that townships which do not identify needs for the funds will direct their allocations to the county to keep the funds at work locally.
The recommended uses for the funds are based on criteria established by the federal legislation. That legislation also allows counties to use some funds for needs not included in the criteria if they are able to show revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Renville County is taking advantage of that opportunity to use some of the funds for the purchase of equipment to improve operations at the county's demolition landfill.
The recommendations by the committee also include the possible purchase or lease of a facility for the storage of emergency management equipment and personal protection equipment. The county does not have a temperature-controlled facility for the storage of the equipment, and that has meant a shortened life span for some of the materials, it was noted at the meeting.
Renville County Board Chair Bob Fox recently returned from a meeting of the National Association of Counties — he serves as a member of its board of directors. He said he heard discussions by representatives of some counties that they will be declining funds. They expressed concerns about how the funds will add to the national debt.
Fox and board members noted that the funds declined by those counties would be returned to their respective states, and spent all the same. He and other members said they would prefer to see the funds allocated to Renville County put to use in the county, rather than returned to St. Paul or Washington, D.C.
The county will be developing a job description for someone to oversee the funds in the county. The individual will be charged with ensuring that Renville County's allocation is utilized locally and that the funds are used in accordance with the law.
The county administrator said the county's American Rescue Plan committee will be developing recommendations for use of the county's second $1.4 million allocation.
Recommended areas for spending federal stimulus funds
Revenue loss — equipment and staff for landfill: $150,000
Mental health services: $200,000
Capital expenditures — building: $200,000
Childcare related grants: $300,000
Staff and software expenses: $260,000
Business grants: $100,000
Water planning: $25,000