ARPA money heist leads to conflict – Newton Daily News
Supervisors approved an agreement with the county’s financial adviser to determine eligibility for a number of American Rescue Plan Act-funded projects, which were authorized by the board more than four weeks ago and gave place in a debate with the elected officials on August 2 on holding on.
Jasper County has $7.22 million in ARPA funds. On July 5, the Board of Supervisors voted to distribute approximately $150,000 to five projects: new EMS storage racks and emergency radios, as well as donations to the American Legion Post 111, at the Astronomical Observatory and the County Fair Board.
However, supervisors approved the resolution pending further review by the county financial consultant.
Last week, the Board of Supervisors authorized financial adviser Public Financial Management (PFM) to assist the county and determine the eligibility of these projects and whether they meet federal government guidelines. He will also advise the county on additional communication with the federal government.
Although PFM will bill the county on an hourly basis, the cap is set at $25,000. Parrott doubted the invoice was close to that amount, referring to a letter from PFM – included in the meeting documents – in which Davenport had a project cap of $30,000 and was only required to pay $9,590. .
Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop, who is chair of the 11-person ARPA committee, asked for a timeline for the distribution of funds, noting that some projects may be time-sensitive. Jasper County Auditor Parrott said those receiving funds may have to wait longer due to an authorization issue.
“I was contacted by most of the organizations that we told we were going to donate funds to them,” Bishop said. “Do you have any idea how long it will take for them to receive these funds? … The amount was approved, then it came to the contract. So these organizations are asking…”
Parrott replied, “They have to be patient, Doug. I mean, I understand.
“I think they’ve been very patient, actually,” Bishop added.
AUDITOR SAYS IT’S A PERMISSION ISSUE
When Jasper County first received its ARPA funds last year, Parrott later told Newton News that he had to register with the SAM.gov website, the entity he said authorizes all ARPA expenditures. But because the county spent no ARPA funds in that first year, Parrott said he had to re-register.
Parrott said he tried to re-enroll in April and then again in May, to no avail. He also discovered that the information he had submitted in the registration form for Jasper County to be double-checked did not match the previous one.
On June 28, the County ARPA Committee met and voted on the Immediate Needs Projects. In July, Parrott contacted SAM.gov for an explanation of the issue and submitted a claim to resolve the issue. Other county auditors and ARPA fund administrators in Iowa are experiencing the same problem, he said.
After the supervisors’ meeting, Parrott emailed the county ARPA committee to explain the situation. The SAM.gov website does not recognize Jasper County as an agent for spending the money, he said in the email. He also copied an email from an ARPA fund administrator experiencing the same thing.
“It’s a disaster,” said Chuck Vandenberg, Lee County’s ARPA fund administrator. “We had to send documents to confirm the information that was already in their system. This is because they received a bad data dump from Dun and Bradstreet in April during the transition.
Parrott also reiterated this information to supervisors. In Parrott’s email to the ARPA committee, he said he knows the entities want their money ASAP, but he’s “going to jump through all the hoops” and follow federal laws and rules in spending. that money, no matter how long it takes.
“PEOPLE ARE WAITING FOR THIS MONEY”
Parrott and Bishop continued their round trips to the guards’ rooms. Bishop disagreed with Parrott’s description of ARPA funds as “free money”. Parrott recanted and said the federal stimulus package was taxpayers’ money, but he stressed the groups needed to be patient.
“We will give them the money. We get it as fast as possible. We will give this to PFM. They will review it and tell us what we need to do to approve SAM’s registration. We won’t be able to do anything through SAM until they get their acts in order,” Parrott said.
If any of the entities have questions or problems, Parrott told Bishop to ask him to call him. Bishop asked why they would call him rather than a supervisor. Parrott said the oversight board doesn’t do the administrative part; the council manages the expenses.
Bishop said: “I hope you understand their frustration. We formed the committee. We went through the full process. We have allocated funds. Now we are saying that we have not allocated the funds. We have allocated the funds corresponding to this amount. There is a contract that has been put in place… These people are waiting for this money.
Understanding that there are rules to follow, Bishop argued that the county had not done a great job of communicating with the groups when they had already been told they had received these funds. Parrott said the county couldn’t spend any money until SAM.gov verified them one more time.
COMMUNICATION REQUIRED FOR THE ARPA COMMITTEE
As chairman of the ARPA committee, Bishop was frustrated because this was the first time he had heard of this problem, which seems to have persisted for months. Parrott said he was not present at the meeting where the supervisors approved the ARPA committee’s request in the first place.
“I don’t know how much the amounts were. I wasn’t there to tell you we were in trouble,” Parrott said. “I’m telling you today that we’re in trouble…I got an email yesterday saying it was Dun & Bradstreet who sent bad data. I just found out. So how could i tell you?
However, Parrot was present at the county’s ARPA committee meeting on June 28 and even voted against dispersing the $150,000.
Bishop asked Parrott from now on to share this type of information with the ARPA committee. Parrott then said that all the ARPA committee does is advise the board and has no other powers. How the federal stimulus package is spent depends on the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, he said.
“That’s all it is,” he said. “It’s just a committee that had to look at the projects and say, ‘Hey, these are good ones. Could you please consider these projects? That’s it. That’s all the authority we have.
Again, Bishop brought up a point he raised when the immediate needs projects were approved by the supervisors: why even have the ARPA committee? Parrott said the federal government needs input from the public. But now those rules have changed. Bishop asked if it was time to disband the committee.
“It’s up to the board,” Parrott said.
SUPERVISORS ASKED TO WEIGH IN
Bishop asked supervisors for their perspective on the conversation between him and Parrott. The county treasurer acknowledged he was putting the supervisors on the spot, but he wanted to know their opinion on the ARPA committee “because there is no communication going on.”
Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma said the ARPA committee did what it was supposed to do, which was to provide recommendations. The council acted on the recommendations, but Talsma said that until SAM.gov’s situation is resolved, he believes the county cannot allocate money.
In addition to immediate needs, the ARPA committee has expressed interest in establishing a county-wide EMS service. But supervisors wanted additional estimates before acting on the project. Talsma said once the county receives those estimates, the committee can determine what to do with the rest of the money.
Jasper County Supervisor Denny Carpenter said it would be good if this new information was passed on to the ARPA committee. Jasper County Supervisor Doug Cupples said he appreciated the ARPA committee and voted as such. Cupples agrees that he wants the process to be expedited.
Talsma said, “But I don’t think any of us knew SAMs weren’t working until yesterday.”
Bishop requested that supervisors and the auditor keep this line of communication open to committee members and send an email to members explaining the situation. Many people, Bishop said, ask them and other elected officials when they will get their money.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org