Commissioners discuss “once-in-a-generation” payout from Biden COVID relief plan

American Rescue Plan funding to states, local governments, schools and others is being referred to by many as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity,” due to the large size of the awards and the potential impact they have on communities.

On Thursday, Alpena County Commissioners held a special meeting for an initial discussion on how to spend the $5.5 million-plus allocated to the county through the federal government’s COVID-19 relief plan.

Commissioners decided to formally apply for the funds, which are expected to be distributed in two payments – 60% this year and the remaining 40% in 2022. They also decided to look at county projects first, before making a determination to possibly help other municipalities, which are all receiving their own funding through the American Rescue Plan. The county could also help non-profits and others in the future, if it decided to do so.

For now, each commissioner, department head and elected official can suggest projects for funding, which will be collected and shared when the full board of commissioners meets in late September. The plan is to then rank the projects in order of importance, and then to determine whether or not they qualify for funding under the terms of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

A few projects were mentioned at the meeting, including an elevator for the main courthouse, improvements to the fairgrounds, expansion of broadband services, and spending on tourism-related projects. In addition, chairman Bob Adrian wants to look at COVID-related losses the county sustained that might be eligible for reimbursement.

It was discussed at the meeting that funding for projects must be spent by December 31, 2024.