It's a big question with answers that will impact everyone living and working in St. Louis County.  At issue is the $54.5 million that the county will receive as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

According to the federal government, the funds are "required to be used to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its economic impacts".  There are four categories that the fed recognizes as potential uses:

  • To respond to the public health emergency
  • Addressing its negative economic impacts
  • Serving the hardest hit
  • Improving access to water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure

Additionally, the federal government disallows ARPA funds to offset tax cuts, deposits in pension funds, bolter rainy day funds, or pay debt service.

The discussion started a while ago but St. Louis County Board members are getting close to the decision-making deadlines.  According to details released by the county, the board will "discuss....broad plans at their Committee of the Whole meeting on October 12".  If the resolution gets preliminary approval at that meeting, it will be voted on at the board meeting scheduled for October 26.

St. Louis County road sign
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

So what could the board be thinking in regards to distribution?  Here's what we know already in dollar amounts:

  • $24.5 million to support the Public Health response to the pandemic and to invest in recovery initiatives
  • $1 million for business assistance
  • $11 million for water and sewer infrastructure
  • $2 million for broadband infrastructure
  • $7.5 million for "other eligible projects" - ranging from road and bridge funding to economic development investments
  • $8.75 million will remain as "uncommitted funds" to allow for "flexibility to respond to new challenges or opportunities as the pandemic continues"

All federal ARPA funding needs to be allocated/committed or spend by the end of 2024.  Additional details about the county boards plans and proposed uses can be found by clicking here.

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Some federal funding has already been approved by the St. Louis County Board:

  • $2 million in broadband
  • $5.2 million for school districts to implement the Check & Connect student re-engagement program

Once the board approves the resolution, funding for any specific portion of the funds would still need additional approval by the St. Louis County Board.

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