Infusion of ARPA dollars comes to Cottage Grove

The City of Cottage Grove has received its first distribution of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to the tune of $1,161,562.89, prompting the city council to set a work session to discuss how to spend the funds.

“They are kind of open,” explained City Manager Richard Meyers to the city council on Monday. “There are some restrictions and some limitations on how they can be used, but it’s still pretty flexible.”

On March 11, 2021 the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law allocating $1.9 trillion for COVID-19 relief and economic recovery. In May, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced the launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, established by ARPA, to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for eligible state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.

Cities throughout Oregon will receive more than $680 million provided over two distributions. The City of Cottage Grove has been allocated the same amount for both distributions.

Cottage Grove is a “non-entitlement” city, meaning the funds go through the state. This requires a report on expenditures to be submitted by Oct. 31.

To determine how to spend this money, the Cottage Grove City Council is set to convene for a work session, which will be open to the public.

“We could wipe out that million dollars pretty fast and not really have anything to show for it,” said Meyers, impressing the importance of the work session.

Councilors have selected Oct. 22 as a date to ensure all council members would be present for the deliberation. The work session will take place following the council’s agenda session that morning, which is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Ideas for how to spend the money have already been suggested.

“We do want to use some of that probably to help recovery in Cottage Grove and tourism and some of the things that have been hit pretty drastically in the community,” said Meyers.

During Monday’s council meeting, Councilor Greg Ervin brought up the possibility of using funds to fix sidewalks in the city, such as those on Taylor Avenue.

Meyers said he thought such a project would be unlikely to qualify as road work is not included under eligible expenditures.

The city is continuing to receive more information about the eligible uses of the funds and how to document their use.

The funds can be used to cover eligible costs incurred between a wide timeline, stretching from March 3, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2024. All funds must be expended by Dec. 31, 2026 for obligations incurred by Dec. 31, 2024.

The Treasury Department has stated that the relief is meant to:

• Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control;

• Replace lost public sector revenue to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs;

• Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses; and,

• Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic on certain populations.

The funds are set up to provide substantial flexibility for each jurisdiction to meet local needs — including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers, and the communities hardest-hit by the crisis. They also deliver resources that recipients can invest in building, maintaining, or upgrading their water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, according to the Treasury Department.

Categories of eligible use may include:

• Support for public health expenditures by funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and certain public health and safety staff;

• Addressing negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector;

• Replacing lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic;

• Providing premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have borne and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and,

• Investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand access to broadband internet.

A Treasury Department fact sheet provided to the city lists a number of more specific examples under these categories.

Additionally, Governor Kate Brown has issued investment criteria for the use of the funds. The City of Cottage Grove was supplied with a copy of the Governor’s Investment Criteria and 10-Point Economic Recovery Plan, which prioritizes categories such as those hardest hit by the pandemic, innovative housing solutions and BIPOC community support.

Under the federal rules, however, states cannot determine or restrict uses of the ARPA funds by local governments. Cities are only subject to the federal requirements.

It was reported to council this week that Cottage Grove city staff have already incurred some costs with intent to use the funding and have other projects in mind.

The public work session with the city council will discuss general priorities and criteria for determining how to use the funding.

“We may have some examples or ideas of specific projects, but I would like to try not to focus on specific expenditures as we continue to look at projects during the next three years,” said Meyers.

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