The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Elizabeth Pullman
Whitehall Ledger 

American Rescue Plan Act Meeting June 2nd: What You Need to Know

 

LEDGER PHOTO

IT'S ALL GOOD: Jacy Johnson, Meagan Johnson and Macee Patritti give the thumbs up for their graduation. Forty Whitehall High School Trojans graduated on Sunday, May 23rd at commencement ceremonies held in the Varsity Gym.

At the second meeting of the ARPA Act on Thursday, May 20th in Boulder, County Commissioners Leonard Wortman and Cory Kirsch, as well as Jefferson Local Development Corporation members Tom Harrington, Eric Seidensticker, and Alison Richardson, detailed the proposed use of ARPA funds allocated to the county.

Jefferson County will receive $2,370,188 over a two year time frame. The County is requesting input from the public on how these funds should be distributed/used. Public comment is currently slated to end on June 4th.

The Whitehall Ledger attended this second meeting regarding the ARPA funds and asked why both in-person meetings were held in Boulder, instead of throughout the county. Zoom options were available for both of the meeting on Thursday, as well as the previous first meeting, but technical issues in both meetings were obvious. By the end of the meeting, it was agreed to hold additional meeting in Clancy on June 1st and another on June 2nd in Whitehall at the Borden's Conference room.

Because Whitehall residents who have not attended previous meetings will only have less than two days to provide public comment, the Whitehall Ledger is publishing the below information, provided at the public meeting last Thursday. Please read through and bring informed questions to the June 2nd meeting, as it is imperative Whitehall's voice is heard in where we hope to see the distribution of these funds go.

The slides for this presentation are available at https://bit.ly/3wCkBOL on the Jefferson County website. Several of the slides are provided with this online story as well.

ARPA USES:

Upon review, the American Rescue Plan Act allocates $65.1 billion in direct federal aid to all counties based on their share of the U.S. population. Allowable uses outlined in the bill include (but are not limited to):

1. Respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts, assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, aid to impacted industries, tourism, travel, and hospitality.

2. To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers.

3. For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency.

4. Make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

JEFFERSON CO. COMMISSIONERS PROPOSED USES:

SOCIAL SAFETY-NET SERVICES

1. Childcare Support. Jefferson County allocates $75,000 of its first year sub-allocated and $75,000 of its second-year allocation of CRF funds to support licensed childcare providers with sustainment of existing facilities and supporting new programs throughout the county. County has experienced increase childcare demands during the pandemic to support working families as they adjust to school teaching models and making financial decisions about entering the workforce. Affordable quality childcare is an economic workforce enhancement that will assist the county on its path to the pandemic recovery by helping to ad to the available workforce. County will work in coordination with Community Connect which supports our region as a service of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services.

2. Jefferson County Health Department. Jefferson County allocates $75,000 of its first year sub-allocated CRF funds and $75,000 of the second-year allocation to support the Jefferson County Health Department with continued administration of pandemic vaccinations, maintaining adequate personal protective equipment, supporting mental health needs and conducting outreach throughout the county. The additional workload and challenges experienced by the health department during the pandemic have been met through the efforts and due diligence of the department and sustainment of services to support pandemic challenges will contribute to the high public safety standards expect by county residents.

3. County Grants Administration. Jefferson County allocates $50,000 of its first year sub-allocated CRF funds and $50.000 of the second-year allocation to create staffing for a County Grants Administrator position to support the financial management, expenditure tracking, reporting etc. of ARPA funds and help ensure they are spent responsibly. This position will work in partnership with the County's economic development organization, Town of Whitehall and City of Boulder assist with grant writing services for the many funding opportunities that may become available as a result of the pandemic for the benefit of the county and citizens during this period of economic recovery.

4. Assisted Living Support. Jefferson County allocates $37,500 of its first year sub-allocated CRF funds and $37,500 of the second-year allocation as a grant to county long-term care facilities to support ongoing pandemic support. Long-term care facilities throughout the county have been doing a tremendous job servicing and protecting their residents during the pandemic using extra protocols, precautions, and personal; protective equipment. This extra due diligence is expected to continue and a grant of $3000 for facilities up to twenty-five residents and $5000 for facilities over twenty-five residents for support of ongoing pandemic support needs will assist these businesses with their ongoing pandemic protocol efforts.

5. Worker Premium Pay. Jefferson County allocates $100,000 of its first year sub-allocated CRF funds to support premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Pay may be provided retroactively for work performed at any time since the start of the COVID-19 public health emergency where workers have not yet been compensated adequately for work previously performed.

SMALL BUSINESS

SUPPORT

1. Small Business County Revolving Loan Fund. Jefferson County allocates $200,000 of its CRF first year sub-allocation to establish a county wide small business Revolving Loan Fund to help support business development and expansion programs. Funds would be available to support economic development opportunities in the county focused on job creation and expansion to assist with county recovery operations from the pandemic. Funds would be allocated $100,000 each and administered by Headwaters RC&D and Montana Business Assistance Connection (MBAC). Both are Certified Regional Development Corporations (CRDC). The County's unique geographical area is best supported by working with both of these regional entities.

2. Business Improvement Grants. Jefferson County allocates $150,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation to support small businesses improvement grant assistance up to $2500 to businesses with under 10 employees to help support operations impacted by the effects of pandemic.

NONPROFIT SUPPORT

1. Nonprofit Organization Support. Jefferson County allocates $100,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation to support Nonprofit organizations located in the county and formed earlier than 2018. The program aims to provide one-time grants up to $5000 to nonprofit organizations to cover unanticipated expenses, revenue losses, and increased business expenses due to the pandemic. Program would be administered by the Jefferson Valley Community Foundation and Elkhorn Community Foundation and each would be allocated $50,000.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

1. Entrepreneurship & Incubation Development. Jefferson County allocates $125,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation and $125,000 of its second-year allocation to support small businesses assistance, development and sustainment opportunities throughout the county. Business assistance will incorporate gathering expertise to work directly with small businesses impacted by the pandemic to help improve and/or expand existing operations. Quarterly business education programs will be offered throughout the county to provide interested businesses assistance with financials, marketing, and operational support. Assisting area business entrepreneurs with a business incubation opportunity will help area economic growth and business development.

2. Brownfields Matching Funds. Jefferson County allocates $200,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation to support Brownfields and other grant matching funds for the remediation and redevelopment of historic buildings on the Boulder South Campus and potential other county locations. These funds will supplement other available grant(s) for potential redevelopment of buildings that will assist with expanded youth group home facilities, addition of affordable residential housing, potential business incubation center and support for expanding tourism opportunities. These services and opportunities will help with pandemic recovery efforts by creating housing and economic development opportunities.

3. Land Development Support. Jefferson County allocates $175,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation to support development of land for much needed workforce housing and business development. The pandemic has increased the number of new residents throughout the county impacting the ability for the local workforce to find adequate affordable housing. Jefferson County will partner with other organizations to help acquire and develop workforce housing throughout the county.

HOSPITALITY/TOURISM DEVELOPMENT

1. Tourism and Business Incubation Support. Jefferson County allocates $135,094 of its first year CRF sub-allocation and $135,094 of the second-year allocation to support the development of the Western Legacy Center (WLC) visitor center in Whitehall. The WLC will highlight our cowboy/cowgirl/rodeo culture and support tourism development by capturing some of the many travelers using the I-90 interstate. Providing these travelers information about regional area points of interest and outdoor recreation opportunities will help increase visitors traffic to hospitality and other area businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic. The center will also act as an entrepreneur center for the many area small business manufacturers that develop products normally sold at events and activities that were impacted during the pandemic with event cancellations. The opportunity to expand product visibility and sales for these small business operations could result in business expansion that will greatly assist with pandemic recovery operations.

2. Tourism Support. Jefferson County allocates $37,500 of its first year sub-allocated CRF funds and $37,500 of the second-year allocation as a grant in partnership with the Whitehall and Boulder Chamber of Commerce to support Discover Jefferson County tourism information center. This allocation will help provide necessary resources for local Chamber organizations to help increase tourism traffic to county hospitality and other businesses impacted by the pandemic and help to leverage other available funding resources that are available.

INFRASTRUCTURE EXPANSION

LEDGER PHOTO

SALUTATORIAN: Whitehall High School Class of 2021 Salutatorian Macee Patritti gave a heartfelt and funny speech to her classmates and graduation attendees.

1. Broadband Expansion. Jefferson County allocates $150,000 of its CRF first year sub-allocation to support broadband service and connectivity for support of rural areas in the county currently underserved for internet support. The pandemic has created a need for good internet connectivity to support remote work, school education and small business operations. Funds would be allocated and administered by the Jefferson Local Development Corporation. It is anticipated that the funds will be used to leverage additional funds that are available through other state and federal funding opportunities.

2. Planning & Engineering. Jefferson County allocates $150,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation to assist communities with on-going design and planning costs associated with area growth due to pandemic support requiring expansion of infrastructure services. These funds will help leverage other available infrastructure funding opportunities through other state and federal agencies.

3. Water & Sewer District Support. Jefferson County allocates $75,000 of its first year CRF sub-allocation to support existing districts with infrastructure needs that have experienced growth due to population increases related to the influx of new residents in the county.

All slides presented are available at https://bit.ly/3wCkBOL.

The ARPA meeting will be held at the Borden's Conference room on June 2nd at 6PM.

 

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