The money is coming. That’s the word from Finance Director Pennie Zuercher on funding provided by President Joe Biden’s direct relief plan to contain COVID-19 and rescue the economy.
Wilton Manors is expected to receive $5.3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Zuercher said half of the funding should arrive before October.
“We are awaiting the final rule of the Department of Treasury,” Zuercher told the Gazette on Wednesday. “Once we have those guidelines we can make a decision on how to spend the money.”
At the July 13 commission meeting, Zuercher gave a presentation on ARPA, which Biden signed into law on March 11. Wilton Manors will receive — through the State of Florida — two annual payments of $2.6 million.
Eligible uses of ARPA funds are broken down into four categories: responding to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, premium page for essential workers, mitigating government services due to lost revenue and investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Zuercher outlined public health uses such as COVID mitigation and prevention, medical expenses, behavioral treatment for depression resulting from unemployment, public health and safety staff and improved design and execution of health programs.
ARPA funding goes into the grants fund, said Zuercher, where the city can then distribute to employers in the fields of healthcare, food production and service, sanitation, education, safety and social services. Premium pay for essential workers in these fields goes up to $13 per hour.
The broadband improvements, Zuercher said, are designed to meet adequate computing speeds and are provided to unserved and underserved households and businesses. The upload/download speed must meet 100 megabytes per second.
Commissioner Gary Resnick noted the rescue package could not have happened without the support of the National League of Cities.
“This statute was a direct result of the lobbying efforts of the National League of Cities,” said Resnick, who sits on the NLC board of directors. “It’s the first time in history that every town, village and city in the country is getting direct funding from the federal government.”
Mayor Scott Newton said the funding is huge for the city and figuring out where it will go will be critical.
“We have to get the best bang for our buck,” Newton said. “We have some needs in the city where this could help … namely the water, sewer and stormwater.”
ARPA funds cannot be used to pay pensions, Zuercher said and must be spent by December 31, 2021.