Viewpoint of downtown Marietta

Local Governments Begin To Plan American Rescue Plan Spending

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Local governments are heading back to the drawing board to determine how to use the American Rescue Plan Act money that is finally coming in. The Biden administration signed the act into law on March 11, giving $350 billion of emergency funding to state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments.

The money comes with restrictions on how it can be spent. 

“There are some very specific areas where the money can be spent,” Washington County Department of Job and Family Services Director Flite Freimann said. “For example, responses to public health, public safety, lost revenue, aid to impacted industries. It isn’t show up to the commissioners meeting and receiving a blank check,” 

These areas are the broad categories that funnel down to more defined rules spelled out in an interim final rule from the Department of Treasury.

Athens County Auditor Jill Thompson’s job is to know these rules, so before she writes the check she knows it is being spent the right way.

“My goals are ultimately to make sure that those funds are put into our community in a way that they were intended by the federal government, that they are utilized for the purposes that are spelled out in the interim rule, and that we can define the eligible uses and the restrictions on those funds clearly within the framework,” Thompson said.

Counties received their first tranche of money at the beginning of this month. 

Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason said he is thinking of the future when spending these funds. 

“You want to invest it so there’s a long-term return as opposed to a one-time spend, “ he said. “So, when you look at water and sewer, that will be something that will last for a long time. It’s going to be able to recoup money and solve the problem.”

A long-term investment opportunity Washington County is in reliable broadband internet for the region..

“Broadband is a huge weakness in our county,” Washington County Commissioner James Booth said. “By providing that it does a couple things. It gets the kids what they need for school and for telehealth and employment. It also raises the value of the property. And that helps everybody.”

The deadline to submit an initial spending plan is due to the U. S. Treasury Department on August 31.

Washington County commissioners are holding a public meeting in mid-July to go over their more concrete plans.