The Dale County Commission Chairman and County Administrator were among representatives from 38 Alabama Counties that met July 29 to discuss the best use of funds made available through the American Rescue Plan Act.
The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 federal relief package that was signed into law in March of this year.
Dale County is allocated nearly $10 million under the plan and at the April 27 commission meeting, the commission agreed to partner with the Association of County Commissions of Alabama for its administration.
The ACCA is a statewide organization which promotes improved county government services, offers educational programs for county officials and their staff members, administers insurance programs for county governments and employees, offers legal advice and represents the interests of county government before state and federal organizations and agencies.
The ACCA’s statewide initiative, called the “Investing in Alabama Counties” program, will help guide counties through best use of the federal funding, explained Dale County Commission Chairman Steve McKinnon. “This will help us best utilize the federal funding.”
McKinnon and Dale County Administrator Cheryl Ganey represented Dale County at the July 29 meeting in Montgomery which focused on maximizing reimbursement provisions in the federal law, as well as local needs assessments to be conducted by each county commission and the ACCA.
Dale County was the second county in the state to partner with the ACCA “Investing in Alabama Counties” program, McKinnon said. Henry County was the first.
As part of the agreement, the county will appropriate a flat fee of 6 percent to ACCA for a five-year period for the services to include legal research to determine the type of projects eligible for the funds under the act and state law, monitoring U.S. Treasury regulations and governmental accounting requirements related to the funds and identifying opportunities for counties to maximize existing funds and minimize the risk of repayment and/or assessment of penalties.
As part of the agreement, ACCA will also provide intergovernmental assistance during the five year relief program and service as a liaison with the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and the Alabama Attorney General’s office, conducting training sessions with county leaders and personnel on the projects selected for their county to enable those leaders to inform the community and media of its plan for the funds.
McKinnon said that the federal funds will be allocated directly to the counties based on the county share of the United States population based on the most recent census data.
The first half of these funds will be distributed in May 2021 and the second half will be distributed no sooner than 12 months later. The funds are to be used by Dec. 31, 2024.
McKinnon said he was pleased with the progress made at the meeting July 29. The next step for each county is currently completing a local needs assessment, which will be used to link allowable expenditures with the circumstances in each community.
McKinnon said ACCA will hold a workshop in August to ensure all participating counties use the same accounting methodology to seek the full reimbursement allowed under the federal requirements.
The July 29 kickoff meeting of the IAC program also provided county officials and staff the opportunity to share ideas with their colleagues and to discuss the immediate requirements involving the federal revenue, he said.
“This revenue represents a once-in-a-lifetime infusion of relief, so the association is providing counties with the tools necessary to evaluate the local needs in light of the detailed federal requirements,” said ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield. “The draft regulations exceed 150 pages, and we expect the final document to expand even further on those requirements. So, compliance is a major component of this program.”