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American Rescue Plan Act funds boost efforts toward supportive housing services

COURTESY PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS - Clackamas County last year considered the purchase of a 27-unit Econo Lodge motel on McLoughlin Boulevard after using it as a homeless shelter.Clackamas County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved allocating approximately $2.23 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to provide emergency shelters for unhoused community members.

Funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March to promote post-pandemic economic recovery, the allocation will cover the cost of 43 additional units in a transitional housing model developed by the county's Health, Housing and Human Services Department staff.

The model, which utilizes hotels and motels for transitional sheltering, is the latest project funded through $40,631,961 in ARPA dollars the county received in May. The county will receive a second installment matching that amount in May 2022 at the earliest, for a total of $81.1 million received through the federal stimulus bill.

County Administrator Gary Schmidt said during the Nov. 2 policy session that the county is moving forward in leveraging federal pandemic relief dollars for this purpose following a recent "game changer" statement from the U.S. Treasury verifying that until final guidelines are released on how ARPA funds can be used, penalties will not be imposed as long as the money is spent accordance to interim guidelines released in May.

Commissioners approved the first disbursement of ARPA funds on June 29 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.

On July 13, the board additionally allocated $4 million to support businesses through grants and other means, $6 million to support nonprofits, and $2.5 million to be invested into broadband infrastructure.

Following the first two ARPA disbursements, the county has awaited final guidance from the U.S. Treasury before spending further, as local governments are liable for repaying funds used for purposes outside of the allowable uses outlined in the interim guidelines.

Those guidelines include: "supporting public health response to COVID-19," "addressing negative economic impacts," "replacing public sector revenue loss," "premium payment for essential employees," "investments in water and sewer infrastructure" and "investments in broadband infrastructure."

This month's allocation will help the county make quicker progress toward completing the goals outlined in an implementation plan for funding supportive housing services in the county. With the emergency sheltering program now paid for through ARPA, the county is free to spend an extra $2.23 million of its current SHS budget as outlined here.

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