June 1, 2021 – At today’s meeting, El Paso County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to recognize and appropriate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the amount of approximately $70 million. The American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress earlier this year and signed into law by the president allocated $65.1 billion in direct aid to counties for costs associated with the ongoing response and recovery from the pandemic and to lay the groundwork for a strong, equitable recovery.
“I really appreciate that as El Paso County, we work hard to abide by our conservative principles. This is a lot of taxpayer dollars, and the first question we ask is how we can get it right back into their pockets, said Holly Williams, El Paso County Commissioner District 1. “This is a lot of money coming out of the federal government that someday our kids will have to pay for. We want to assure the public that this money is spent correctly, that we account for every penny, and at the end of the day, it is audited. We are very conservative and careful in the administration of this money.”
As a regional leader, El Paso County remains committed to helping our community recover from the negative impacts of the pandemic. ARPA funds present El Paso County with a tremendous opportunity to make strategic investments in the region to enhance its long-term, sustainable recovery.
“I want to reassure our residents in El Paso County that our desire and goal is to effectively and efficiently administer ARPA funds, making sure we are doing right by and take care of our community, said Longinos Gonzalez, Jr., El Paso County Commissioner District 4. “I want to highlight the economic and workforce development, specifically the Regional Business Relief Grants, that we effectively administered with CARES Act dollars. Our economic team will work quickly to get those applications available in the coming days and weeks for those businesses that have been struggling and perhaps on the verge of failing, so that we can take care of our community, businesses and make sure people can get back to work.”
Under the American Rescue Plan Act, El Paso County is expected to receive approximately $140 million from the federal government. The funds will be released in two phases, and the county will have until the end of 2024 to expend the funds. Funds allocated to large projects by 2024 can be spent on projects finished by the end of 2026. Today’s recognition of approximately $70 million represents the first allocation, with the second allocation of approximately $70 million expected to be received within the next 12 months.
The federal government outlined specific allowable uses for ARPA funding. The funds can be used to support the ongoing response and recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic and address its negative economic impact, supplement government revenue to the extent of loss for the purpose of providing public services, invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure and premium pay for essential workers who couldn’t telework during the pandemic.
During today’s meeting, El Paso County Controller Nikki Simmons presented a preliminary expenditure plan for the allocation of APRA funding. The plan includes:
- $20 million for economic and workforce development. This is the largest portion allocated to support the economic recovery of small businesses and tourism industries that have suffered tremendously through this pandemic as well as strengthen our workforce through training and retraining programs for workers impacted by COVID.
- $17 million for public safety response efforts to COVID/ COVID variants. This includes testing and quarantine costs as well as increased staffing, medical, and intake processing costs related to COVID.
- $13 million for improving local water and stormwater infrastructure.
- $10 million set aside to address future county needs.
- $8 million for Public Health to address health equities and fill the gaps of other funding received for COVID response efforts.
- $1 million for grant administration to provide monitoring and oversight of ARPA grant funding.
A video clip of the presentation is available https://youtu.be/ILmsvBeLnW4. The report and presentation are also available online https://admin.elpasoco.com/arpa/ .