Guidelines that address how municipalities are to spend federal American Rescue Plan Act funds were discussed Wednesday during the Reno City Council meeting as eligible uses were outlined.
Also referred to as the COVID stimulus package, the plan allocates approximately $1.9 trillion to communities nationwide to speed economic recovery caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It piggybacks on several characteristics of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed in March 2020.
Reno collectively gets $51.5 million as part of the plan. Half of that has already been received and the other half is due in May 2022. Funds must be allocated by December 2024 and spent by December 2026.
J.W. Hodge, city director of policy and strategy, advocated for four immediate projects that include keeping a COVID coordinator position for $90,000 that was initially funded through the fire department. Others are hybrid meeting technology for $200,000, premium pay for Volunteers of America staff for $480,000 and an additional $490,000 in City Council discretionary funds for projects to be split among the 7-member board.
Hodge said eligible uses of rescue act dollars are as follows:
- Supporting public health response
- Addressing negative economic impacts
- Premium pay for essential workers earning less than $75,000 annually
- Replacing public sector revenue
- Improving water, sewer and broadband
Such funds cannot be used for pensions or other post-employment benefits, debt service, legal settlements, rainy day funds, or certain types of general infrastructure, Hodge said.
State officials are seeking feedback until October from the public about how to best use the funds. Responses will be divided by zip code and distributed to localities. Ideas will then be evaluated, followed by an allocation plan before a first round of projects is funded, Hodge said. Projects will be monitored and quarterly and annual reports will be sent to the federal government.
An allocation plan is expected to be in front of the City Council by December. Hodge said project evaluation would be straightforward.
“If it doesn’t adhere to the timeline set by the Treasury or guidance set by the Treasury, it’s probably not a project we can move forward with,” Hodge told council members. “If it does, as a staff we’ll look at if it meets council strategic goals. Is it included in city plans like ReImagine Reno (master plan) and the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan)? Can we measure it, and are there other funding sources?”
Councilman Devon Reese said he expects a variety of suggestions on how money should be spent that range from restrooms along the Truckee River to broadband service.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to face lots of ideas about how to spend it and also lots of competing concerns,” Reese said. “Because the pool is limited, there will not be enough for everything that we want to do, so I think it’s important that we as a council continue to communicate openly and honestly and transparently so we get the most bang for the buck.”
Washoe County is expected to get $91.6 million and Sparks is scheduled to get $16.2 million in rescue act funds. Approximately $3.3 billion is going to the state.
To take a survey or provide feedback regarding the American Rescue Act Plan of 2021, visit https://nevadarecovers.com.
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.