Likely sometime in April, the Fayetteville City Council – in connection with the budget calendar process - will begin reviewing projects and programs that are expected to be funded from the initial $20 million received from the federal American Rescue Plan.
The city overall is receiving $40 million in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the federal plan.
The government stimulus package is intended to provide support to state and local governments in response to the economic and public health impacts of COVID-19. The money is meant to help communities, residents and businesses impacted by the pandemic.
At this point, specific projects have not been identified. Rather, three committees were created to discuss general areas of need where the money could be spent. City staff will come back to the City Council in the spring and list projects, priorities and programs where the city might want to use portions of the funding.
On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law, which established the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
The city received the $20 million portion in late summer or early fall, according to Adam Lindsay, an assistant city manager.
“Everybody is getting it in two tranches,” or portions, he said.
The balance of the federal money should be delivered to the city approximately 12 months later.
“Everyone is really excited about these dollars coming in and what it means as far as an opportunity. It’s historical,” Lindsay said. “Many of us have been in this industry a long time and never seen something like this and, likely, never will again. It was so exciting, in fact, that the mayor and council – they formed these special committees where they were looking at opportunities and what their options were.
“When the federal government rolled this out,” he said, “there were probably just as many questions as there were answers regarding how you can use this, when can you use it, and what were the rules going to be. If you’ve been around long enough, there’s always a bit of red tape that goes with all kinds of grants and funding that comes to you, so we want to make sure (we) stay on the right side of that. But what we saw were basically three windows of opportunity.”
Cumberland County’s total allotment is $65 million to help its communities recover from the pandemic. The first round totals nearly $34.7 million.
The county has identified projects and has sent them to the county Attorney’s Office for compliance review, Charles Evans, the former chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, said.
On Friday, Evans said the board is still waiting on compliances from the county attorney.
"That's to be summed up next week," he said.
In July, the Board of Commissioners conducted a survey and held community input sessions after establishing a three-member American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) committee.
North Carolina as a whole will receive $8.94 billion.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has established eligible uses for the funding and published an Interim Final Rule. Under the ARPA guidelines, the money can be used to cover eligible costs incurred between March 3, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2024.
The funds, as directed to the county and city, must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.
“There’s a three-to-five-year window to identify those – the projects and where the money is spent,” said Lindsay. “There’s an additional $5 million held back for administrative things. They’re looking at opportunities. There’s a whole set of guidelines for eligible uses and other matters. You’re going to have a commitment by the end of 2024. Three years from now.”
Lindsay calls the funding “transformational dollars,” which he said can be used on existing and new projects as well as guidelines related to the ARPA allocation regarding COVID-19.
According to a powerpoint presentation from the City Council’s November work session, three special committees were created to discuss the areas where the money could be directed: one focused on business and economic vitality needs, the second was housing and livability needs, while the third centers on infrastructure.
“Under those three committees,” Lindsay said, “they came up with the outcomes that we should be focused on related to the utilization of the pandemic dollars. For business and economic vitality, they wanted to see opportunities for investment in our workforce, business development and government support operations. Housing and community livability was trying to get more resiliency in our residents, driving communities and expanding community capacity.
"And under infrastructure," he said, "it was public health resiliences, safer communities, multi-mobile accessibility and investing in targeted growth area.”
That's a lot, he noted of the broad range of areas projected to be tackled by the federal money.
Even $20 million or $40 million is a lot of money, Lindsay said, and the likelihood is that all the proposed project areas cannot be tackled.
In November, the full council heard the reports from the committees and determined where its members wanted to focus their priorities. So once they “narrowed down those three buckets, if you will, they’ve said they want to use $5 million in each of those three categories,” Lindsay said.
“So once they narrowed down their focus on the outcomes they wanted, they’ve given staff the task to come back to them and list projects, priorities and programs where they might consider putting some of those dollars, at least from the first $20 million.
“So that’s where they are …,” he said.
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.