County officially earmarks all ARPA dollars

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, April 6, 2023

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It’s all spoken for.

Mower County Administrator Trish Harren updated the Mower County Board of Commissioners Tuesday during a work session that all American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has now been earmarked for spending.

Throughout the life of the ARPA grants, Mower County has received $7,781,574 in straight funding, but has also received $319,030.09 in additional wind tax funding after initial budget estimates were low. On top of that, it received $100,000 from Local Assistance and Tribal Consistence Fund money, which falls under the ARPA umbrella, giving the county a grand total of $8,200,604.09 under the ARPA tag.

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“It’s kind of a blessing that we got that wind fall,” Harren said. “We had some serious inadequacies in IT infrastructure. We are going to commit $400,000 to IT infrastructure updates. There’s also Emergency Management needs. That’s going to get paid for out of those items.”

Initially, there were strict guidelines set by the federal government in how and when ARPA funds could be used, however, additional guidelines were released indicating that if an entity received less that $10 million in ARPA funds then those entities could put the money in the bank with no requirements on how it’s spent or when it was spent.

Harren said that money received by the county and other such entities is considered “revenue replacement” dollars.

However, instead of banking the money, the county has opted to continue moving forward and allocate the funding to address critical needs that would otherwise be passed along to the taxpayers..

“We have pretty much fully committed (Thursday), the full $8.2 million,” Harren said.

She went on to say that with the money committed, she expects it to be fully spent in the next six months to a year.

“Money that will linger longer and is money set aside for mental health because we are just initiating those mental health projects for adults now,” Harren said.

The news that the money is now fully committed has been a relief for both Harren and the county because of the extra work associated with allocating the funds, but at the same time it has been recognized as a lifeline to the county that not only supported it and local businesses during the worst of the pandemic, but also set the county up for a stronger future.

“We’re grateful to have received the extra money that we can just spend for needs in our community and specifically needs that will help change system problems,” Harren said. “Housing, child care, mental health — it’s been a lifesaver and has positioned us really to be able to deliver better services and save money in the future.”

“A lot of this money we would have had to pass onto the taxpayers,” she added. “We’ve invested nearly $1 million in IT. That’s money that would have been passed onto local taxpayers.”