By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – The District Attorney’s Office has been hired to oversee and administer Canadian County’s estimated $28 million award of federal stimulus funds.
Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting Aug. 2, approved a legal and federal funding administration services agreement with the DA’s Office in Canadian County. The contract is for $75,000 through the rest of the 2022 fiscal year.
Canadian County is due to receive some $14 million initially and another $14 million in 2022 through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
“We want to offer our services to help with applying for, managing and administering that ARPA money,” Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries told county commissioners. “We’re fully capable and willing to administer that.”
Canadian County has five years to expend the funds.
“There’s going to be a lot of work ‘up front’,” Humphries noted.
The DA’s Office wanted to “throw our hat in the ring” to help Canadian County, he explained.
Members of the Floyd Law Firm in Norman, at the Canadian County Commissioners’ July 6th meeting, offered their legal help with the county’s ARPA grant program management.
After reviewing Humphries’ proposal, Canadian County Commissioners voted 3-0 to use their local DA’s office.
“I appreciate Floyd Law Firm or anybody else that might step up and volunteer to help us,” District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader said. “Unless (the DA’s Office) feels like they just didn’t have the capacity to advise us in these matters, I’d just as soon use our lawfully constituted legal counsel.”
The ARPA of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden in March. Some $130 billion has been allocated to counties across the U.S.
The act is designed to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recession.
Humphries told county commissioners the DA’s legal/administration fee will be paid with APRA monies, not from the county general fund.
The agreement could be extended beyond June 30, 2022.
HOW FUNDS MAY BE SPENT
Canadian County may spend these federal APRA funds in four primary categories:
- To respond to the negative economic impacts and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to be prepared for any future pandemics.
- To provide premium pay for essential employees who undertook required public health-related work during the pandemic.
- To restore lost revenues for any negative tax impact due to lower economic activity.
- To upgrade and improve Internet broadband, water and sewer infrastructure.
The amount each county has been allocated was determined based on factors including population, COVID-19 financial impact and unemployment rate.
Several entities – such as the Canadian County Health Department and City of Yukon – already have approached county commissioners about the $28 million federal award.
“We have a lot of interest already in how that money’s going to be spent,” Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart said. “We will probably begin this process with a strategic plan.”
The DA’s Office envisions creating a strategic plan like one the Alliance for Hope developed in spring 2018 for Canadian County’s new family justice center.
“It’s not a legal service, but we’ve been through it before and we’re fully capable of conducting a strategic planning process,” Humphries said.