Summit County officials decide what to do with $6 million from the American Rescue Plan
A large chunk of the money will be dedicated toward housing
The Summit Board of County Commissioners met Friday, June 11, for a short work session meeting to discuss what it should do with the funding it received from the American Rescue Plan.
During the meeting, Summit County Finance Director Martina Ferris reported that the county was receiving just over $6 million, which will be divided into two installments. The first payment is to be received “any day,” and the second will be received a year from now.
The county has until the end of December 2024 to spend the funds, which can be used in the following ways:
- Public health emergency response to the virus
- Solutions for negative economic impacts
- Equity-focused services
- Government services
- Premium pay for government employees
- Infrastructure for water, sewer and broadband
The money cannot be used for reducing property taxes, deposits to pension funds, debt service, legal settlements or judgments, or rainy day funds or financial reserves.
During the meeting, county officials agreed to use some of the funds to reimburse what they had spent on COVID-19 operations. That leaves nearly $3.2 million.
County Manager Scott Vargo laid out a list of priorities the county had identified as possible areas to spend the money, which include housing, child care, mental health, capital projects, equity initiatives, pretrial services, business support programs and more.
County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said her top priority is housing and that she’d like to dedicate a large chunk of the funding to that sector.
“I think we have to remember, as a community, what our biggest challenges are, and that does require infrastructure, so if there’s an infrastructure project we can fund to support housing, that makes complete sense to me,” Pogue said.
Vargo noted that projects like these not only support the county but also surrounding communities.
“Funds going toward workforce housing help all of those districts. It helps all of the businesses and other activities within the community to be able to retain or hire staff, as well,” Vargo said.
In total, county officials agreed to set aside money for its economic resiliency as well as $320,000 for contingency COVID-19 planning and nearly $3 million for housing.
This funding isn’t the only resource giving Summit County’s housing crisis a boost. The county is also exploring other options, such as applying for grants through the Department of Local Affairs. Summit County state House Rep. Julie McCluskie also noted that housing was a major topic at the state level.
“I’ve been in for three sessions now, and every session housing has been a concern,” McCluskie said. “It looks different, (but) the needs at that high level are the same: We don’t have enough affordable housing. We don’t have enough workforce housing. What we do have now costs far more than most of our lower-level service sector employees — particularly here in Summit — can afford.”
McCluskie said there were two major bills that were signed into law this past legislative season that are meant to tackle the state’s housing issues. The first is House Bill 1329, which will put the $550 million the state received from the American Rescue Plan into an affordable housing and home ownership cash fund.
The money will be used for “programs or services that benefit populations, households or geographic areas disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency, focusing on programs or services that address housing insecurity, lack of affordable housing or homelessness.”
The second bill McCluskie noted was one she sponsored called House Bill 1271. This bill created three programs within the Department of Labor Affairs, including the local government affordable housing development incentives grant program, the local government planning grant program, and the affordable housing guided toolkit and local officials guide program.
According to the bill’s overview, the purpose is to offer grant money and other forms of state assistance to local governments to promote innovative solutions to the development of affordable housing across the state.
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