By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Applicants seeking federal stimulus aid through Canadian County will use the county’s website to make their funding requests.
Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting Oct. 18, voted 3-0 to approve an application process for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
That process will require applicants to provide specific data on how many Canadian County residents their proposed project will serve and whether they have any matching funds.
Canadian County is eligible for $28.8 million through ARPA, a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill designed to speed up the U.S. recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing recession.
County commissioners have decided to use the county’s website (canadiancounty.org) to direct entities and individuals to submit ARPA funding requests and/or ideas about possible projects.
“It’s important we have a uniform way of receiving those submissions,” Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries advised county commissioners.
The District Attorney’s Office was hired Aug. 2 to oversee and administer Canadian County’s large ARPA award.
Humphries recommended using the Canadian County website to create an “ARPA tab”.
Canadian County has a “great website that we can use as a resource to get information out,” he said.
Informational links from the U.S. Treasury Department and State Auditor’s Office will be posted to the site.
Canadian County could spend some of its ARPA dollars to either create a “portal” or to “simply put links up and do it in-house,” Humphries explained.
Commissioners agreed to have county personnel update the site – without any outside cost – so applicants can print out forms to complete and submit.
These application documents will make it clear to those requesting funds what projects qualify through this federal stimulus program, Humphries noted.
HOW TO SPEND?
Funding through the ARPA of 2021 – passed by Congress and signed by President Biden this spring – may be spent to:
- Upgrade and improve Internet broadband, water and sewer infrastructure.
- Provide premium pay for essential employees who undertook required public health-related work during the pandemic.
- Respond to the negative economic impacts and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to be prepared for any future pandemics.
- Restore lost revenues for any negative tax impact due to lower economic activity.
District 1 County Commissioner Marc Hader said he “struggles” with accepting this federal stimulus money from the Biden Administration.
But he’d rather see this $28.8 million be used to benefit Canadian County taxpayers than letting the federal government spend them.
“While there’s a lot of noble things we can do, I always feel like if we’re going to do something, we ought to do something that’s significant,” Hader said, “(and) really hit a home run for Canadian County citizens long-term.”
For example, Hader said he could support using this ARPA money to expand broadband service to supply the “whole county.”
Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart doesn’t believe there will be “that big of a volume” of projects submitted for consideration.
“Dollar-wise, it will be a large volume what they’re going to submit,” the District 3 commissioner added. “But these categories are somewhat limited on what is eligible.”
Stewart referred to the need to upgrade aging water and sewer lines, both inside cities and in rural areas of Canadian County.
District 2 County Commissioner Dave Anderson said he wants to eliminate any appearance of “competition between communities” seeking ARPA funds through this process.
“I want it to be pretty structured,” he said.
At Anderson’s request, Canadian County’s ARPA application form will require each applicant to say how many residents would be impacted by the proposed project and how much “matching” funds they would contribute.
Chairman Stewart quickly added, “And if they’re requesting any of the $1.9 billion the state is going to get.”
After proposed projects are submitted, Canadian County officials could “score” them before deciding which to fund through the $28.8 million award.
“There will be lots of internal controls, which the Auditor’s Office likes to see,” Humphries said. “We’ll follow their process to take these submissions in and evaluate them.”
The amount of ARPA funds each county has been allocated was determined based on factors including population, COVID-19 financial impact and unemployment rate.