Spokane County got $101 million from the American Rescue Plan and wants your thoughts on how to spend it

<p><p>Spokane County has $101 million of American Rescue Plan money to spend and wants the public’s help to figure out where the dollars should go. </p></p><p><p>“This is a one-time opportunity for our county,” Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns said in a news release. “We need to get this right.”</p></p><p><p>The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill Congress passed earlier this year. State and local governments got $350 billion; counties alone got $65 billion.</p></p><p><p>Governments have to determine how to spend their allocations by the end of 2024 and the dollars have to be spent by the end of 2026.</p></p><p><p>In order to figure out where the money is needed most, Spokane County is asking residents to take a <a href=”https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6584120/ARP-Community-Recommendations” target=”_blank”>short survey</a> that asks questions about how it should be prioritized. You can find the survey at <a href=”https://www.spokanecounty.org/4895/American-Rescue-Plan” target=”_blank”>www.spokanecounty.org/arp</a>.</p></p><p><p>Jeff McMorris, the county’s community engagement and public policy advisor, is leading the American Rescue Plan distribution effort. He said some people have already reached out to the county and made pitches for why their organizations deserve some of the money.</p></p><p><p>“The comments we’re hearing right now are from folks who are more in the know,” McMorris said.</p></p><p><p>It’s important for the county to hear from people who aren’t in the know, too, McMorris said. He emphasized that’s part of why the survey’s important.</p></p><p><p>McMorris said that in addition to collecting survey information, the county’s hoping to inform the public about how the American Rescue Plan money can be spent. The county can’t use it however it wants.</p></p><p><p>The American Rescue Plan has a lot in common with the CARES Act, the economic stimulus bill Congress passed at the start of the pandemic. Spokane County got about $91 million through that bill.</p></p><p><p>But while both the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan seek to fund public health efforts and support the U.S. economy during times of unprecedented turmoil, there are key differences. For instance, there are more restrictions on how the county can spend the American Rescue Plan money.</p></p><p><p>The U.S. Department of the Treasury has said governments can use the dollars for <a href=”https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/SLFRP-Fact-Sheet-FINAL1-508A.pdf” target=”_blank”>several types of spending</a>.</p></p><p><p>Water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects are eligible. McMorris emphasized that other types of infrastructure projects, such as roads, do not qualify.</p></p><p><p>Governments can use their dollars to help communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Affordable housing and projects that help the homeless are eligible, as are investments in early education and day care.</p></p><p><p>American Rescue Plan money also can be used to address negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, projects that benefit workers, nonprofits or small businesses could qualify.</p></p><p><p>Governments can use some of the money to offset pandemic-related revenue losses. Per the American Rescue Plan formula, Spokane County can use a bit less than $5 million for revenue replacement.</p></p><p><p>Spokane County can also use part of its allocation to give premium pay – extra money – to frontline workers, such as nursing home staff.</p></p><p><p>The money can also be used for projects that benefit public health. Vaccination programs, health care capacity expansion projects and helping vulnerable populations access medical services are a few of the ways the county can spend the money.</p></p>