Aransas County commissioners, at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 27, approved the Steering Committee’s recommended projects to be pursued and funded utilizing $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. The court also reviewed and discussed other projects that received consideration.
Commissioners, at their May 24 meeting, asked Commissioners Pat Rousseau and Bubba Casterline to establish a committee and come back with recommended projects.
Rousseau and Casterline, Auditor Jacky Cockerham, Assistant Auditors Lara Kirchens and Tish Murphy, and Long Term Recovery Team Member Kim Foutz met multiple times during the past four months to discuss the program guidelines and to select eligible proposals as potential projects for use of the funds. Members individually sought input from community residents and business leaders on potential projects. In August, the Court approved the selection of GrantWorks as the grant administrator to work with the committee as needed. Committee members met with the GrantWorks team and received additional guidance from them about qualifying and suitability of projects under discussion.
The list of recommended projects to be pursued, which were unanimously approved by the court, are:
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID test kits, sanitization products ($250,000)
• Records storage and management/accessibility to public - District Clerk’s office ($1 million)
• Records storage and management/accessibility to public - County Clerk’s office ($1 million)
• Potable water storage tank for jail and protective barrier for tank ($100,000)
• Website development and redesign ($70,000)
• Three portable message trailers to improve public communication ($50,000)
• Infrastructure construction/repair to protect clean water ($1.5 million)
• Generator for Animal Control facilities ($90,000)
• Generator for AgriLife Extension office ($90,000)
• GrantWorks administration estimated fees ($150,000)
Cockerham noted a draft contract for GrantWorks totaling $75,000 has been sent, but not yet accepted.
There were other projects reviewed, but not recommended by the committee due primarily to having a lower chance of approval, or the possibly of being funded via other sources. Those projects, and reasons for not being recommended, are:
• Fiber optic (loop and last mile), project not likely to be approved with SLFRF but may qualify under competitive funds.
• Affordable housing, no feasible option presented that was likely to be approved
• Childcare needs and facility, need more clearly defined request. May qualify as FEMA Public Assistance Project
• Education, not likely to be approved
• Tourism, non-profits’ suggestions: billboards, tourism shuttle bus, Art Center expansion; projects not likely to be approved
• Healthcare, funding recommended above for PPE and test kits, allocation made in FY 2022 Budget from Health Care Sales Tax fund.
• Workforce facility/training; Del Mar College is requesting funding via the ARPA EDA competitive Good Jobs Challenge Grant.
• Water and wastewater improvements, addressed above.
• Fire department equipment and other eligible uses, may qualify under competitive funds.
American Rescue Plan Act funding
On March 11, 2021 the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law. This act provides more than $1.9 trillion in federal funding to families, governments, businesses, schools, non-profits and others impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The law provides $350 billion for state and local governments.
Counties and municipalities are receiving a direct allocation of federal funding to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the case of Aransas County, the early estimate from the National Association of Counties – NACO - is $4,559,620 in State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF).
The official guidance, Secretary of the Treasury Interim Final Rule to implement the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund and the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, has been received. This 150+ page document outlines with a broad-brush the types of projects that are eligible for funding.
All non-competitive funds will be allocated in two payments. The first payment was for 50% of the funding and was received in May 2021. The second 50% of the funding will be issued one year later. All funds are to be obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026.