GREENFIELD — Hancock County is working on a potential methodology that nonprofits will be able to use to request money from the county’s American Rescue Plan funds, which they could use to either make up for shortfalls caused by COVID-19 or to upgrade their capacity to serve.
The county is expected to receive approximately $15 million in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which are intended to serve a variety of purposes like supporting COVID-19 response efforts, making up for revenue lost due to the pandemic, and addressing economic and public health challenges that exacerbated the impact of the virus.
At their most recent meeting, county council members discussed how they would like to see money allocated from the federal program intended to give communities a financial boost to counteract damages from the COVID-19 pandemic.
County council member Keely Butrum, who is on the committee considering ARP spending, said she’d like to see an application process for eligible organizations.
“The way we’ve talked about it is sending out something that’s a real simple questionnaire, that just says, ‘If you had the money, what would you do with it that’s self-sustaining, that would create long-lasting impact?’ Once you fill out that questionnaire, the next step would be an actual application,” she said.
Council member Jim Shelby said one proposal discussed would allocate about 40% of the ARP money to infrastructure improvements; 25% to organizations dedicated to mental health; and 25% for other nonprofits. The remaining 10% would be reserved for emergency expenses.
Butrum said organizations wouldn’t have to show that they suffered a loss due to COVID-19, but instead would be asked about how they would add to their services with the money and how they could keep those services going in future years.
The council is working on compiling a list of nonprofits that would qualify for funding based on having a client base located mainly within Hancock County.
“I am not a fan of giving Hancock County ARP money to nonprofits that are going to spend it outside the county, but I think anyone who is serving the residents of Hancock County should be considered,” Butrum said.
Butrum said that 10% could go toward revenue losses from income taxes if the income tax returns for 2022 show shortfalls.
Butrum also said she would like the county commissioners to consider putting some of the funds toward premium pay for employees who missed out on a raise in 2021 due to COVID’s economic impact.
“Maybe we could do something that’s flat rate for everybody, like a $1,500 bonus no matter what you do,” she said.
The county commissioners have expressed opposition to the idea, saying that a raise the county employees are receiving in 2022 fulfills the same purpose.
Commissioner John Jessup said he thinks infrastructure projects and nonprofit funding are the right uses for the money, though the county government needs to spend more time discussing the exact percentages that should be put toward each use.
Infrastructure projects the county hopes to fund with ARP money would include an improved water and sewer system in the eastern part of the county, focusing on the Charlottesville area.
Approved uses of ARP funding
Local government units may use ARP funds to:
- Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control
- Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs
- Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses
- Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequal impact of the pandemic
“The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each government to meet local needs — including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers, and the communities hardest hit by the crisis. These funds can also be used to make necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure,” the U.S. Treasury Department says on its website.