The city of Washington is poised to directly receive nearly $2.6 million in federal coronavirus relief funds allocated in the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed by Congress in March. A special meeting of the Washington City Council has been called for Monday at 6 p.m. so city leaders can begin to formulate how to use the money under additional guidelines recently released by the federal government. “Anybody interested in how the city allocates these funds are more than welcome to attend,” Lamb said Friday.
The American Rescue Plan Act appropriated $1.9 trillion to help the country recover from the coronavirus crisis. Included in that is $350 billion in financial aid to local and state governments. The state of Missouri is expecting $3 billion in total direct payments from the American Rescue Plan.According to the federal government, cities and counties can use this money to invest in their water, sewer and broadband internet infrastructure to expand access to “clean drinking water, … vital waste water and stormwater infrastructure, and access to broadband internet.” The money also can be spent to support public health expenditures, including funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, behavorial health care and certain public health and safety staff-related expenses. The federal government said the money also can be spent to “address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency,” which could translate in some cities to microloans or microgrants of $5,000 or $10,000 to small businesses hurt hardest by the pandemic. Cities and counties also can use the money to provide “premium pay for essential workers” and to replace lost public sector revenue due to the pandemic. Lamb said city council members and department leaders have largely focused on infrastructure-related projects and have submitted a list of recommended projects that will need to be prioritized. These projects, which initially had a price tag bigger than $2.6 million, have been whittled down to the exact $2.6 million allocation.St. Clair Administrator Travis Dierker and Pacific City Administrator Steve Roth also are grappling with how to allocate the federal grant.Roth said Pacific city leaders are considering using the $1.3 million it expects to receive for water and wastewater improvements though the city may also opt to use the funds to finance expansion of broadband internet.
“I am not saying that the city should get in the broadband internet business, but I’m saying that the city should at least take a look at expanding access to it in our underserved areas,” Roth said. “I’m very curious about this broadband piece, which certainly wouldn’t be feasible for the city to address without this opportunity.” A feasibility study about expanding broadband internet could create possible partnerships with local internet providers who would provide that service, according to Roth. A 2019 report from the U.S. Census Bureau lists Franklin County with 80.4 percent of the population having access to high-speed broadband internet. For comparison, Pacific had 77.8 percent. The survey, which the report was based on, has a margin of error of around 2 percent, according to the census bureau. Roth said the city has made a number of sewer system upgrades over the years, including relining nearly 3.5 miles of sewer main, but he knows additional improvements also need to be made. In St. Clair, Dierker said discussions have focused on using the $867,000 the city expects to receive on its sewer and water infrastructure systems. “We just have a lot of up-in-the-air questions right now,” Dierker said, adding he anticipates answers from the Missouri Municipal League and other sources in the coming weeks or months. Cities and counties have until Dec. 31, 2024, to spend the money, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Eligible state, county and city governments may now begin to request their allocation of funds from the federal government through an online portal on the U.S. Treasury Department’s website. Governments can receive up to 50 percent of the allocation now and will be able to receive the remaining 50 percent in 2022. Of Missouri’s 114 counties and the city of St. Louis, Franklin County is set to receive the eighth-largest payment from the federal government at $20.1 million. According to the Missouri Budget Project, here is what other counties will receive: St. Louis County, $193 million; St. Charles, $78 million; Jefferson, $43.6 million; Warren, $6.9 million; Washington, $4.8 million; Crawford, $4.6 million; and Gasconade, $2.9 million. The city of St. Louis will receive $58.3 million.Other cities in Franklin County also are expecting to receive funds. These communities include: Union, $2.2 million; New Haven, $381,640; Gerald, $241,840; Berger, $40,710; Parkway, $93,750; Oak Grove Village, $86,940; Leslie, $31,310; and Miramiguoa Park, $22,290. Nearby Marthasville will receive $221,000, and Augusta will receive $49,180, according to Missouri Budget Project.