Spokane County asks residents how to spend $101 million in relief funds | Washington
(The Center Square) – Spokane County officials are asking residents for the second time how to spend $101 million of US bailout (ARP) money.
The government launched a survey last fall asking how the money should be spent in broad categories. Now managers want suggestions for specific projects.
“I think it’s going to be a great tool,” Commission Chairman Josh Kerns said after Tuesday’s briefing on the scope of the new investigation by community engagement and policy adviser Jeff McMorris.
Kerns and Commissioners Al French and Mary Kuney gave McMorris the go-ahead Feb. 1 to release the new poll next week under the existing link at www.spokanecounty.org/arp.
“The new survey will ask if there are any open projects the commission should be aware of,” McMorris said. “She will ask for the entity, dollar amounts, current or future needs, or if the project is just a suggestion.”
He said community engagement in goal setting is a required component to spending ARP dollars, and the commission has waited to move forward on spending until the US Treasury Department issues guidance. on exactly what was expected in January.
Commissioners wanted to make sure their spending priorities met official eligibility criteria, especially when the Treasury advised counties and cities not to commit all their money immediately so they would have capital available to meet changing health and economic needs, McMorris said.
Governments must determine how to spend their ARP allocations by the end of 2024 and the dollars must be spent by the end of 2026.
Treasury guidelines allow government agencies to use ARP funds to meet their estimated shortfall from the previous year related to the pandemic economic crisis. After that, officials have wide latitude to use the funds for everything from shelters and homeless services to youth programs, job training, neighborhood revitalization and affordable housing.
After the county had ARP revenues in hand last year, businesses and residents were asked to provide online feedback on where they most wanted the millions to be spent. They were given a choice of five categories: public health, economic support for households and businesses, services to disproportionately affected communities, bonus for essential workers, broadband/water/sewer infrastructure and income replacement.
McMorris said the new survey will go into detail, asking which population groups a project will serve and what benefits it will bring. While funds spent on infrastructure likely go to a government agency, he said ARP funds can be used for projects undertaken by other entities that are already doing this work.
“If the commissioners think it’s a worthwhile idea, they can fund that category and people can top up to achieve that goal,” he said.
The county will issue a press release about the new investigation, reach out to community leaders to help drive participation, and use social media posts to spread the word.
“At this point, we don’t have an end date for the investigation,” McMorris said, noting that ARP funds can be spent in phases.
The U.S. bailout is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in the spring of 2021. State and local governments across the United States then received $350 billion; the counties alone got $65 billion.