Procedures for COVID-19 funds laid out for commissioners

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

MOUND CITY – Southeast Kansas Regional Planning Commission (SEKRPC) Community Liaison Taylor Hogue met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, Oct 25, to discuss the options the county had for distributing the funds the county had received from the federal government.

The total of the funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) will be $1.9 million. More than $942,000 has already been received and the other half will be paid to the county next year. These funds have specific regulations for the way they can be used, and Hogue explained a few options.

Hogue gave the commissioners a pack of information containing sample applications, scoring systems for evaluating the applications and explanations of eligible expenditures.

The commissioners have chosen to use SEKRPC to administer the funds for them. The organization will assist them in developing applications and guidelines for deciding on recipients, and then will monitor and report on how the recipients use the money. The fee for this work is 5 percent of the total or about $94,200.

Hogue said that she had been asked if the county could deny funds to an eligible applicant. She said that, even if it was an eligible request, the county could deny the request if it did not align with what the county’s priorities were for ARPA.

“These funds are your funds, and they are expended at your discretion. So the funds are Linn County’s to use and if applicant’s funding does not meet your goals and priorities for ARPA funds, then you are free to deny any application,” said Hogue.

Commission Chair Rick James said that he knew that one way he wanted to use the money was for getting broadband throughout the county but he also asked questions about other uses explained in the packet.

James asked about how the funds could help small businesses in the county. Hogue said that some funds could be used for businesses that had not applied for other grants or if those businesses applied for a different period of time than in their other application.

For instance, if a company applied for funds that were lost due to COVID-19 from March to July 2020, they could not apply for help during that time but could apply for help from August to December 2020.

Hogue said that a portion of the funds could be set aside for small businesses as a program of its own, but she encouraged the commissioners to decide what they wanted to prioritize the funds for, the specific scope of that work, and then decide on applications.

James asked about a section in the packet on learning and social issues. Hogue said that section might allow the county to fund school districts’ early learning programs or other programs.

Hogue said that some counties were using part of the money as a revenue replacement program. Counties had to allow their financial reports before the pandemic to be examined and compared to reports during the pandemic. If there was a large difference, counties could use that money to put in their budget to make up for the losses.

Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower said that she had already been approached by broadband providers, water districts and Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center.

Hogue said that grants for rural water districts were kind of tricky because some of them fall under the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act revolving loan fund. In that case, it would qualify for the interim quality rule, but that there might be some projects that could be funded.

Information about what they qualify for is sort of jumbled right now, said said. So if they apply, it may take longer to see what they qualify for.

Hogue also explained that there were specific guidelines for certain amounts of money. For example, if a company received $250,000 to do a project, they would have to agree to follow federal procurement and bid policies.

Hogue said that just because something was not specifically listed as an approved project, often a case could be made for its importance.

James said the commission would definitely have to get a list of priorities before choosing recipients.

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