Palm Beach County received $290 million from the federal government as its share of the American Recovery Act IARA) and have wasted no time in putting that money into use.
The $2 trillion American Recovery Act, rolled out in May, included $350 billion in federal funds intended to stimulate a national recovery from the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. That total was broken down into $195 billion earmarked for states and the District of Columbia; $65 billion for counties; $45.6 billion for 142 metropolitan cities; $20 billion for tribal governments; and $19.5 billion for smaller local governments that are not counties, generally with populations of fewer than 50,000.
Florida’s share is in excess of $1.4 billion, with Palm Beach County receiving $290,730,026.
The U.S. Treasury issued guidance outlining details of specific ways that states and local governments can use the money — and some ways they cannot, like using it to offset new tax cuts.
Palm Beach County’s Assistant County Administrator Todd J. Bonlarron said the county administration has already brought a plan to its Board of County Commissioners on how to spend the money.
He said the two largest categories for allocation of the ARA money are in the areas of Housing and Water, Environmental and Resiliency.
Water/Environment will receive approximately $75 million. Sixty million will go towards increasing the supply of affordable housing and workforce housing. Some of the money will also be used to expand Broadband services in the county and other smaller various projects.
“We will see some of these dollars working very quickly,” Bonlarron said, “particularly in the wastewater and stormwater area.”
He said the county is putting together its plans for housing and that Broadband is a continuation of some of the work that the county was doing with CARES Act funding.
Bonlarron said the ARA money must be encumbered by 2023 and fully spent by 2026.
“We really looked at some of the infrastructure and tried to figure out how we could use some of these dollars to address high level areas that transcend beyond a one-time expenditure of the funds and have lasting generational impact.”
Oversight of the spending on the county level will be through its Board of Commissioners and Inspector General.
Bonlarron said, “The federal government will have a tremendous audit oversight over those funds. Down the line governments don’t want to be in a position to have to pay back funds they didn’t need.”