American Rescue Plan Act funds boost efforts toward economic recovery post-pandemic

On July 13, Clackamas County commissioners approved $12.5 million to support recovery from COVID-19 impacts.

Of the total federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), $4 million will support businesses through grants and other means, $6 million will support nonprofits, and $2.5 million will be invested into broadband infrastructure.

At the meeting this week, County Operations Officer Nancy Bush presented six categories that ARPA funding could support, including addressing negative economic impacts of COVID-19, replacing public-sector revenue loss, implementing premium pay for essential workers, and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Clackamas County officials previously approved a total of $3 million to support emergency operations and vaccine distribution, $3 million toward premium pay for essential employees and $150,000 to support business recovery centers (BRCs).

Bush and her team recommended the board continue funding within six categories this week by supporting small businesses and nonprofits, recovering lost revenue, investing in broadband and water infrastructure, dedicating funding to aid the area's hardest-hit communities and financing temporary staff to help administer these funds to the community.

County elected officials opted to discuss lost revenue, water infastructure, funding for hard-hit area communities, and financing temporary staff at a later date.

The newly approved $4 million toward small businesses will support businesses that provide child care, tourism, farm support and more, and although previous grant funding has been distributed among them equally, meaning each small business received the same amount regardless of relative size. County Commissioner Paul Savas said it would make more sense to distribute funds to businesses proportionately based on size and need.

"Making payroll for 40 people is far different than making payroll for four people," Savas said.

Chair Tootie Smith agreed, and Allegra Wilhite, business and community services deputy director, said they could look into adjusting the grant process.

Of the $6 million toward nonprofits, $4 million would support their capacity to provide aid and $2 million will help them meet basic needs including hygiene, food and outreach.

Clackamas County's board opted to commit a total of $10 million toward broadband infastructure but will only pay $2.5 million of it upfront to cover the cost of engineering the high-speed fiber-optic internet line. County officials have committed the other $7.5 million to pay for installation and construction later in 2022.

Clackamas County approval of ARPA funds came a week after the board approved a resolution to support the county's commitment to economic recovery post-pandemic, along with a statement that read:

"Clackamas County experienced significant and adverse economic inpacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic that began on March 4, 2020. Businesses and the greater economy have suffered financial distress workforce shortages, business closures and uncertainty for these last 16 months."

It continued: "As the state restrictions associated with the pandemic have now been lifted, the Board of County Commissioners, is committed to the economic recovery of the community. Approval of this resolution acknowleged the need to call on the State for additional resources and commits the County to looking at support opportunities that move the economy towards recovery and resiliency."

On July 8, the board approved an agreement with The U.S. Department of Treasury granting over $9.9 million in ARPA funding for emergency rental assistance.

The county also recently drafted a letter to the Department of Treasury asking them to consider expanding eligible uses for ARPA dollars to include disaster preparedness. If approved, the county will be able to use the dollars to fund projects related to wildfires and other natural disasters that have significantly impacted local communities over the past year.

Answers to frequently asked questions about ARPA are available here.

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