By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon is due to receive about $4.5 million in federal stimulus funds – which one elected city official calls a “gift”.
The City of Yukon is eligible through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in March.
“You will have money coming into Yukon,” Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) executive director Mike Fina told city council members July 20.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime appropriation to municipalities.”
Yukon City Manager Tammy Kretchmar reported the city will get some $4.5 million.
The ARPA is designed to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recession.
Yukon and other municipalities are expected to receive their ARPA allocations in 30 to 60 days.
Funds may be used for Internet broadband expansion, water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, public safety salaries, and recouping potential budget deficits.
This money is a “gift” – without a tax increase, Mayor Shelli Selby said.
“And we want to use it wisely,” Selby added. “There are restrictions on it, though. So, while we would have liked to have worked on our roads, it is not for that.”
Yukon city officials will consider using these federal stimulus funds to improve water and sewer lines. More discussion is expected at an upcoming Yukon City Council study session.
“We are still waiting on the state to provide the details,” Selby noted.
Road improvement projects are not eligible through the APRA.
However, Congress is crafting another infrastructure bill that Fina believes will contain significant road funding.
The OML director updated Yukon city officials July 20 on the fund distribution process.
“What I encourage you to do is take this money and do something that’s going to make a difference for Yukon,” Fina advised city council members. “Make an investment in this community.”
The City of Yukon will have to follow federal guidelines to spend the ARPA funds.
“I want you to think about what’s the best investments for Yukon,” said Fina, a former Piedmont mayor. “You can be having those conversations now.
“What are your water and wastewater needs? Every city has them.
“Maybe broadband is what your citizens want. It’s very much geared toward getting broadband infrastructure across the state.”
Some $1.9 billion will be distributed across Oklahoma state agencies, including the Water Resources Board.
The City of Yukon’s general fund last year received a $2.1 million boost of COVID-19 relief funding through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act of 2020.
Those funds were used to pay police officer and firefighter salaries for seven months, personal protective equipment, disinfecting public buildings and public safety personnel time at COVID testing sites.
TWO POTS OF $$$
The latest round of pandemic-related federal stimulus aid are “pass-through” appropriations from states to their cities and towns. A state must request APRA funds first before local governments receive their distribution.
OML’s Fina advised there are “two separate pots of money” – one for the State of Oklahoma and one for municipalities.
Oklahoma state leaders have taken the extra step of hiring a professional management organization (PMO) to administer and audit the ARPA programs. This national firm also will provide resources to municipalities.
“This money is different than CARES,” Fina explained. “If they come back and audit CARES Act, it’s on the state. If they come back and audit ARPA, it’s on the municipality because we ‘bypass’ the state this time.”
Oklahoma has 30 days to finalize its ARPA program rules once funds from the U.S. Treasury are deposited in the state’s account; the law allows states to request a 30-day extension. OML has helped write the municipal and state rules.
“We’ve had the benefit of seeing 37 other states that have requested their funds before us,” Fina said. “Almost all of them have asked for that extension because Treasury made this very hard to ‘unpack’. They have not given us all the details at any one time – it’s been a little bit at a time here, a little bit at a time there.
“And they waited to the very end to give us all the municipal rules, which has been very frustrating.”
The City of Yukon will certify all expenditures.
“Don’t panic on that … we’re going to give you lots of guidance,” the OML chief assured council members. “We’re not anywhere close to that just yet.”
Fina attended the Yukon City Council’s recent study session with OML’s Daniel McClure to give a presentation on city council protocol. The OML officials offered their help to council members.