The Payne County Budget Board – a board comprised of elected county officials who make budgetary and policy decisions for the county – was briefed during its monthly meeting Monday about American Rescue Plan Act funds the county will be receiving.
The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021.
“This law is one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in history,” according to a U.S. Department of the Treasury fact sheet describing the massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
In addition to direct payments of up to $1,400 to persons with lower incomes ($75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples) the act increases the child tax credit to $3,600 for each child under age 6 and provides emergency funding of $350 billion to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency while stimulating the economy and bringing back jobs.
County governments will receive a total of $65.1 billion and Payne County will receive between $14 and $15 million, attorney Lynne Driver said.
Half of the funds will be paid to the county within 4-6 days after it submits an agreement to accept the funds and comply with Treasury Department guidelines. Payne County received its allocation based on the county’s share of the total population of all counties. According to the 2019 Census estimate, Payne County has 81,784 residents.
Driver’s law firm will assist Payne County in complying with legal requirements and agency guidelines. Driver said the Board of County Commissioners will be responsible for overseeing compliance.
The County Treasurer will receive the federal funds and place them in a separate account. The county will be allowed to invest the funds in an interest-bearing account and keep the interest, unlike other federal funds provided to counties, Driver said.
The County Clerk’s office will oversee payment of purchase orders and ARPA coding on the purchase orders.
Driver advised the board that the commissioners must first sign an agreement to receive the funds specifying that there are no conflicts of interest and that the county will follow the guidelines approved by the Treasury Department.
Payne County will need to conduct a needs assessment to identify programs or departments to receive the funds for authorized purposes. Driver advised the board that 66 categories of expenses had been approved for the funds, including improvements in water, sewer, and broadband internet infrastructure. Funds could be used for helping non-profit organizations and the community, Driver said.
She recommended starting with a survey to county departments to identify funding needs for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the assessment, Driver said the county will need to approve a written plan to use the grant funds. Her law firm will assist the county in developing and writing the plan.
Driver said the authorized person from the county must comply with “very technical” requirements to enter the computer portal established by the Treasury Department.
“Getting into the system is tricky,” she said. “There are a lot of administrative procedures to follow.” Driver’s law firm will be able to provide continuing guidance to the county in receiving and spending the federal grant funds.
“You are going to be seeing a lot of us over the next four years,” Driver said.