Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 9, 2021
The American Rescue Plan will deliver $350 billion for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs.
David Jahosky, Managing Director of the consultant group Government Services Group, Inc., briefed the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at their July 6, 2021 Regular Meeting on the current knowns (and unknowns) regarding ARPA monies slated for local governments. This firm is working with both Nassau County and Fernandina Beach to acquire funding for authorized uses and to ensure proper documentation is produced to prevent any claw back of funds over the next 10 years.
Currently, Fernandina Beach is slated to receive $5.5M from this Act via the state of Florida., which has been allocated a pot of $1.4B to distribute to counties and cities that did not receive directing funding from the U.S. Treasury Department. It is anticipated that the first draw of this money will be available in 2-4 weeks.
Other local allocations of ARPA funds include: $17M from the U.S. Treasury to Nassau County, $3-5M to the School Board, $571K to Callahan, $1.3M to Hilliard.
Jahosky reported that Nassau County has developed a program named Prosper Nassau in order to help non-profit agencies access funding opportunities more efficiently. This project is being funded with both County dollars and ARPA funds.
The ARPA funding can only be used to cover expenses in certain broad categories:
Treasury has said that the money cannot be used to reduce tax revenues, prior pension obligations, long term debt, or litigation expenses. Currently, Treasury has defined infrastructure as water, sewer and broadband. However, additional guidance is expected by the end of the summer.
Jahosky said that his firm is working with the City to prioritize a list of projects that will meet ARPA criteria for funding. Thus far more than $10M of projects have been identified for the $5.5M of ARPA funds. He stressed that the paperwork for approval is important and complex. Should Treasury reconsider a conditional grant to be not eligible, they can demand repayment of those funds within a 10 year period.
Recommended projects for Fernandina Beach currently include: new fire station, waterfront restoration, restoring affected industries such as tourism, Area 5 stormwater and wastewater management, and waterfront revitalization. Jahosky invited Commissioners to add to or adjust that list via the City Manager’s office.
Kevin Guthrie, Florida’s Emergency Management Director, has tried to counsel patience and stress the uniqueness of this funding. He has said that ARPA marks the first time that every state, county and municipality in the nation has been declared a disaster area. This has created mountains of paperwork and rules for government at all levels.