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County preps ARPA funding guidelines

With approximately $200,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding left to spend and another installment of just under a quarter million dollars expected later this year, the county has been working to devise an application process for entities with projects they believe are eligible for pandemic-related funding.

The Crook County Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on April 5 at 4 p.m., at which time they will hear comments on the application form that has been devised, which details the requirements to both request and award the funding.

The commission has a couple of years to allocate the money thanks to the December, 2024 deadline and wants to collect as many applications as possible before making decisions.

At the suggestion of County Attorney Joe Baron, the first steps taken were to examine the rules for spending ARPA funds and devise a policy for the commissioners to follow when making decisions about individual requests.

These requests can be from governmental agencies, such as the offices within the courthouse, but can also come from outside parties, such as nonprofits or other county entities.

On April 5, the commissioners will examine an application checklist that outlines the information all applicants will be required to submit along with their application. This includes a certification statement and verification document about the organization applying for the funds, as well as minutes or a resolution authorizing the application if applicable and a completed county voucher, W-9 and EIN number.

If applicable, a Wyoming Secretary of State Certificate of Good Standing will be required – a document that verifies a business has completed all state requirements and is authorized to do business.

Finally, the county will expect applications to include detailed budget expenditures, tax return, cash on hand and investments for fiscal year 2022 and a legal opinion that the project is eligible for the funds.

ARPA funding has been allocated to the county through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, which is delivering $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments to support their response to and recovery from the pandemic.

The final rules for the program will take effect on April 1. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has said the intention is to provide “substantial flexibility” for each jurisdiction to meet local needs within four eligible use categories.

These categories include replacing lost public sector revenue, supporting the COVID-19 public health and economic response, providing premium pay for workers performing essential work and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The first category allows spending on any service that is traditionally provided by a government – including providing emergency and health services, road building and government administration – up to the amount of revenue lost during the pandemic.

Responding to public health and negative economic impacts can meanwhile include assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits, impacted industries, public sector capacity and public health.

The county has already created a draft priority list for internal use when making decisions about proposed projects, which the commissioners will likely consider and make changes to as the process continues.

This list states that the available ARPA funds will be used in a particular order of priority, beginning with public health projects related to COVID-19, followed by revenue replacement to the county and other local government entities, premium pay for governmental entities, county government and other local government infrastructure, water and sewer infrastructure, broadband, negative economic impacts and, finally, restoration of public sector capacity.

More than two thirds of the first installment has already been spent. Projects funded so far include premium pay of $200 per month for county staff who worked through the pandemic; repair work for the sewer line at the county library and the plumbing in the jail; an E-911 system; and a new communications tower for emergency service radios.

The draft application form for ARPA funding can be viewed on the county website.

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