NCW — Local governments are looking at budgets, businesses and bouncing back from the pandemic in the funding they’ll receive from the American Rescue Plan.
The $2 trillion plan that became law on March 11 will provide billions of dollars to state, county and municipal governments, according to Congressional documents. But a lot of things remain unknown about how much funding cities and counties will receive and what the parameters of the funding will ultimately look like.
According to sources from the offices of U.S. Reps. Kim Schrier, D-Sammamish, and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, local agencies are estimated to receive the following funding amounts:
- Chelan County — $14.97 million
- Douglas County — $8.42 million
- Grant County — $18.95 million
- Okanogan — $8.19 million
- Wenatchee — $5.92 million
- East Wenatchee — $3.56 million
The U.S. Department of the Treasury is still finalizing the details and payment amounts from the bill, according to local officials.
The American Rescue Plan has a couple of advantages over the CARES act funding that agencies received in June 2020, Chelan County Commissioner Bob Bugert said. For one thing counties and cities will get the funding directly from the federal government.
The CARES Act had each state divvy out funding to local agencies and some counties in Washington received more funding per capita.
Also, counties and cities may have more latitude with what they do with the rescue plan funding compared to the CARES Act, Bugert said.
“A lot of funding last time, it had a very specific deadline as far as when the money was to be spent,” Bugert said. “Which just caused some challenges for us.”
Bugert said Chelan County plans to spend its funding in three ways:
- To shore up budgetary holes caused by COVID-19
- To provide grants to businesses — particularly agricultural businesses
- To spur economic recovery from the pandemic
Chelan County will use some of the funds for its budget as it experienced additional expenses in its jail and court system during the pandemic, Bugert said. In addition, the county lost revenue from decreases in the gas tax as people did not travel as much.
The county will then create grants with the funding for businesses to apply for economic relief due to COVID-19 impacts, he said. But they want to focus on agricultural companies this time.
“The initial funding did benefit a lot of the businesses, restaurants, but we did not specifically address agriculture,” Bugert said.
Any funding leftover will be used to help the community and economy recover from the impacts of the pandemic, he said.
The funding does have some parameters, East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford said. According to the Municipal Research and Services Center, it can be used for several things, including:
- To respond to a public health emergency caused by COVID-19
- To provide assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits
- To aid tourism, travel and hospitality industries
- To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure
It is confusing as to what cities and counties can spend the money on, Crawford said. For example, she could see several different ways to aid hotels and restaurants and bring tourists into the city.
“OK, so aid them as in maybe hosting events, so that we can encourage more people to come from out of town to stay in the hotel?” Crawford asked. “Or maybe direct payments to those types of businesses? It’s vague.”
The city of East Wenatchee does not know yet how it will use the funding it receives, but it is looking at budget shortfalls from the pandemic, she said. It is also considering providing some of its funding to the sewer and utility districts to help them with the impact to COVID-19.
The city of the Wenatchee is also in limbo on how it will spend its funding, Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz said. At the moment, it is waiting for guidance from the U.S. Treasurer on how the money can be spent.
Douglas County commissioners could not be reached for comment.