Marion must decide how to spend her $ 71 million American Rescue Plan


The Marion County government will receive just over $ 71 million in the American Rescue Plan Act, that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11.

How does the departmental commission plan to spend all this money? He doesn’t know it yet, but the conversation started at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

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A few points seemed clear. The commissioners seem inclined to spend $ 500,000 to conduct a county-wide broadband feasibility study. That way, when state or federal government money for infrastructure improvements becomes available, the county will know exactly how and where to direct it.

It is also generally accepted that a good chunk of the money should be spent on expanding water and sewer systems – a long-standing budget and an environmental priority that can now come close to reality.

It is less clear how much money will be allocated to dozens of county funds, many of which are small, that lost money during the pandemic when sales tax or other sources of revenue fell. The details will be worked out there this summer, during the annual budget review process.

Initial recommendation from county government staff

County staff initially recommended using $ 11.7 million to replace fund revenue lost due to the pandemic, $ 10 million to help local businesses and nonprofits through contracts with the Chamber and the Ocala Metro Economic Partnership and the Community Foundation for Ocala / Marion County, 500,000 the broadband feasibility study and the remaining $ 48.5 million spent on infrastructure projects in county water and sewer supply.

Commissioner Kathy Bryant said the county’s initial report to the federal government, due Aug.31, is expected to be general in nature. There is not yet enough information to act on.

“I don’t think we have to rush and commit this money,” she said.

Fund relief

Federal CARES law money, which also provided pandemic relief, cannot be used for local government revenue collection. But this use is permitted under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Many county government funds – not just the big ones, like the general fund, but also the small ones, like the sidewalk building fund – have lost revenue both directly, due to a drop in the building tax. sale or other sources of income, and indirectly, due to the decrease in interest. Income.

The Fire, Rescue and Emergency Relief Fund was among dozens of county budget funds that lost money during the pandemic.  The County Commission will determine which funds need to be replenished with federal relief dollars.

The federal government allows local governments to consolidate these funds, including offsetting lost interest income. Without this replenishment, some fund balances could be strained, ultimately leading to higher mileage rates or dues and / or reduced service.

County budget staff will review the numbers, determine what funds need to be replenished and by how much, and present that analysis for the committee’s discussion.

Help for businesses and social services

As for the $ 10 million to help local businesses and nonprofits: The commission agreed that staff should contact the CEP and the Community Foundation to see what kind of relief might be needed. Funding for the CARES Act has already been directed to local businesses and social service agencies.

Water and sewer projects

County administrator Mounir Bouyounes said the county could spend every penny of its US bailout on water and sewer projects and that still would not be enough to meet needs.

The Marion County government could spend $ 71 million on water and sewer projects and that still would not be enough to meet the needs.  This August file photo shows a sewer line construction project at Florida Horse Park.

In April, the commission said it was depending on US bailout money to provide the local game needed to provide central water in the Lowell area. This project is already moving forward and the commission is helping to add more to the list.

“Bring me some projects,” said Bryant. Staff will do it soon.

5 categories of expenditure

The following information comes directly from backup documents provided by the county government regarding the five ways American Rescue Plan Act money can be spent by governments:

• Support public health spending, by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical spending, behavioral health care, and some public health and safety personnel;

• Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harm to workers, households, small businesses, affected industries and the public sector;

• Replace lost revenue from the public sector, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the revenue reduction suffered as a result of the pandemic;

• Provide a premium to essential workers, offering additional support to those who have borne and will bear the greatest health risks due to their services in the critical infrastructure sectors; and,

• Invest in water, sewage and broadband infrastructure, making the necessary investments to improve access to potable water, support vital wastewater and stormwater treatment infrastructure, and expand the broadband internet access.

Contact Jim Ross at [email protected]


About Christopher Easley

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