Grand Traverse County may hire consultant to guide ARPA spending | Local News

TRAVERSE CITY – Grand Traverse County’s commissioners can hire a consultant to guide them through creating a plan to spend $ 18.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.


District administrator Nate Alger said Tuesday night a proposal was received from Lansing-based public sector advisors. Alger said the county had previously worked with PSC and reached out to them last week asking them to submit a proposal.

Under the proposal, PSC would receive up to $ 50,000 to host a series of meetings with the county, convene community input meetings, and facilitate the creation of a spending plan. The costs would be covered by ARPA funds.

The proposal will be on the agenda for possible approval at the District Commission meeting on November 3rd.

Chris Forsyth


Deputy Administrator Chris Forsyth outlined options for using ARPA funds at the county council meeting on Wednesday. Forsyth said the county could form a team tasked with identifying areas to focus on and goals and priorities for those Could set spending that could be based on a survey of the county’s quality of life conducted by the National Resource Center-Polco last year, he said.

Forsyth was in favor of hiring a consultant.

“We’re going to need a consultant to flesh out these ideas and guide the process,” said Forsyth.

Alger said there had already been several meetings and discussions with the district authorities on how the funds should be spent. Such meetings with the public have not yet taken place.

Forsyth said the county has also spoken to various community groups, including the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, about what their needs are and how they would like the money to be spent.

“So there was already a significant, not necessarily public engagement, just reaching out to the community in general and just saying, ‘What do you think?'” Forsyth said.

Betsy Coffia (copy)


Commissioner Betsy Coffia said she saw a difference between people directly affected by the pandemic and those running nonprofits that play an important role but are not a substitute for direct public engagement with people who are childcare or psychiatric Need services.

“The $ 18.2 million does not belong to the staff … it belongs to the community,” Coffia said, pointing out that many communities across the country have already held several public meetings.

The county received half of its stake in the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund in July – as is known, and will receive the remainder in July 2022.

For now, it’s in an interest-bearing account – which is permitted under the Interim Final Rule set by the US Treasury Department. The money will earn less than one percent interest, said district treasurer Heidi Scheppe.

The Treasury Department is expected to publish its final ruling by the end of the year. The ARPA funds must be made available by December 2024, the projects should be completed by December 2026.

According to the transitional arrangement, the funds cannot be used to repay pension or other debts, court settlements or judgments. Nor can it be placed in reserves or in a rainy day fund.

What it can be used for is broken down into five broad categories, including responding to COVID-19, responding to the economic impact of COVID, replacing lost revenue from the pandemic, bonus payments to eligible workers during the pandemic, and water, sanitation and broadband infrastructure .

Forsyth said mental health treatment and substance abuse are cited as one way to use the money.

“The response to COVID-19 includes not only medical care, but also mental health, substance abuse treatment and behavioral health services,” Forsyth said. “So it’s broader than vaccines and therapeutic and preventive measures in dealing with the virus. It also looks at the secondary mental health effects of the pandemic. “

In the survey on quality of life carried out about 18 months ago, residents named mental health treatment alongside affordable housing and childcare as one of the county’s greatest needs.

Mental health care is consistently named in surveys conducted by Munson Healthcare and regional health authorities.

Another category describes how ARPA funds can be used to replace lost revenue due to the pandemic.

Bott returns to GT County


The county claims a loss of $ 2.3 million for 2020, though the loss is in expected revenue growth, said Dean Bott, chief financial officer.

Based on the county’s 2017-2019 numbers, the county’s revenue grew an average of 3.5 percent in 2020, Bott said. The Treasury Department allows municipalities to use a formula that puts expected growth at 4.1 percent, Bott said. Anything below this mark can be claimed as a loss of expected revenue – not actual revenue.

In another category, people who worked during the pandemic and had regular face-to-face interactions with the public or handled items handled by others can receive a premium of up to $ 13 an hour down to $ 25,000 per hour Worker is limited to be granted. Nursing home and hospital staff, caretakers, teachers and child carers and more would be eligible.

“If I can work from home in front of my screen on my kitchen table, I’m not a major worker,” Forsyth said. “If you are out there, interacting with people … then you would probably qualify as an indispensable worker.”

The funds could be set up under a grant program so that private employers could pay their workers, Forsyth said.

When communities, villages, and towns within the county are included in the ARPA funding, the amount increases to $ 27 million. Commissioner Daryl Nelson said he would like to see the different communities work together on some projects.

Brad Jewett (copy)


Commissioner Brad Jewett said he looks forward to talks about how the county can get the most out of the funds, which is a godsend but, by and large, can be eaten up pretty quickly on road, sewer and water projects, he said.

“I think people have to be a little careful when they realize it’s a lot of money, but it’s not a lot of money,” said Jewett.

Broadband and other infrastructure needs are now being built into two packages in Congress – a $ 1.2 trillion plan that was passed by the U.S. Senate in August and is now in the House of Representatives, and a separate $ 3.5 trillion plan. Dollar budget reconciliation package for 10 years, which is in preparation the process of reduction to a size that two Democratic objectors – Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – will pass.

The state is receiving $ 5.6 billion in ARPA funding and has tabled a few draft proposals that would use the money for housing and community development, community revitalization, and clean housing energy enhancement, to name a few.

Coffia put forward a resolution from Dickinson County, Upper Peninsula, that would support a match program that the Michigan Association of Counties is working on. This program would provide nearly $ 4 billion in state ARPA funding to fund local investments.

The district can examine the decision at the meeting on November 3rd.

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