Final public input session for county’s American Rescue Plan funds is Tuesday

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Beaufort County residents will have a final chance to publicly share their recommendations on how the county should spend its American Rescue Plan funds when the county commissioners meet at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 6. The meeting will be held in the boardroom located at 136 W. Second St. in Washington.

Beaufort County is set to receive a total of $9.1 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Act. That’s just the county’s intake; it doesn’t account for the American Rescue Plan funds local municipalities are receiving. The money comes in two installments, the first of which arrived in May. The second installment will arrive next year.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has published guidance on what that money can be spent on. The county hasn’t spent any money from its first allocation; officials are waiting for the commissioners to craft a list of spending priorities once the public input process is complete, and they’re also waiting for answers from the government about potential uses for that money.

The commissioners already held three public input forums around the county, the last of which was held Monday night at Pinetown Volunteer Fire Department. The first two meetings were held at Blounts Creek Fire Department and Old Ford Fire Department, respectively.

“(The commissioners) did three in the county. They didn’t do them at municipalities simply because they said municipalities are getting money themselves directly, so they didn’t necessarily want to go to the city of Washington and sit in their town hall and take comments,” County Manager Brian Alligood said during the meeting in Pinetown. “They’d rather Washington do their own there, take comments inside the city. And the county would look outside that.

“That doesn’t mean you can’t partner with the municipalities,” Alligood added. “But they wanted to spread it out to the county.”

The commissioners have also been setting aside time during their regular monthly meetings to hear public input on the American Rescue Plan funds. The July 6 meeting will be the last time they do so. The commissioners will schedule a work session sometime after that meeting where they’ll work on putting together a spending plan.

Discussions about Rescue Plan funds have covered topics such as solid waste, broadband internet, stormwater issues, sewage, public safety, facility improvements, and others.

An eight-page document detailing how the money can be spent is available on the Treasury’s website, https://home.treasury.gov/. There are five general categories that the funds can be used for:

ŸSupport public health expenditures, by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and certain public health and safety staff.

• Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector.

• Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic.

• Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have borne and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors.

• Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand access to broadband internet.