Chautauqua County Legislature approves projects for American Rescue Plan funding

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Legislature has approved a plan that allocates $24.6 million awarded from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to 43 projects.

This action followed a special session of the legislature, which was open to the public and was held on September 8 in the Legislative Chambers, wherein 41 projects were carefully discussed by department heads and other key stakeholders. The projects were also reviewed by each of the legislative committees the week of September 13. Based on input from discussions at the committee meetings, the Audit & Control Committee proposed amendments to the original ARPA Plan, which added 2 new projects to the list of 41 for a total of 43 projects.

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This legislation included a wide array of stimulus and recovery funding to ensure the nation’s swift economic and public health recovery from COVID-19. As part of the $1.9 trillion package, $350 billion was allocated into a State and Local Fiscal Recovery fund to help offset revenue losses and address public health and economic initiatives.

The U.S. Treasury Department issued detailed guidelines for allowable uses of the funding by county governments, which includes four categories: respond to COVID-19 and its economic effects; provide premium pay to essential workers; restore lost revenue; and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure projects.

The U.S. Treasury Department also issued detailed guidelines for what the funds cannot be used for, which include: debt service; legal settlements or judgements; deposits in rainy day funds; deposits into pension funds; use as non-Federal match for Federal programs such as Medicaid; and costs incurred prior to March 3, 2021.

Chautauqua County received an award of $24.6 million, of which $18,219,169 is available for general county spending (based on the Department of Treasury’s revenue loss formula), and the remaining $6,380,831 in funding can only be spent on designated ARPA categories. The ARPA funding is being committed in two equal tranches of $12.3 million, and unexpended funds are not subject to recapture or return until December 31, 2026. The County has already received the first 50% allocation.

A Chautauqua County ARPA working group consisting of County Executive PJ Wendel; Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon; Legislators Chuck Nazzaro, Jay Gould, and Mark Odell; and several department heads met every two weeks since April 2021 to develop a plan consisting of projects to be funded with ARPA monies. Meanwhile, all county department heads were solicited for projects.

In selecting projects, Wendel and the ARPA working group placed a special emphasis on public health, infrastructure, economic/workforce development, clean water, and public safety. Projects selected within these general categories were prioritized based on their County-wide impact, the extent to which they would have a direct and lasting impact, the extent to which they address an identified need, and the extent to which they are sustainable without incurring future costs to the County.

The ARPA Plan was thoroughly reviewed by the ARPA working group who recommended adoption to the County Executive. Wendel, in turn, recommended approval of the plan to the County Legislature. The ARPA Plan was thoroughly discussed by the Department Heads and other stakeholders at the September legislature special session, and was again reviewed by each legislative committee the week of September 13.

“This is an excellent plan for expenditure of the ARPA funds,” said Wendel. “The 43 projects were well conceived to have a county-wide impact, to address short, medium, and long-term needs, and to be sustainable in the long-term. I am grateful to everyone who had a hand in developing this plan, including the COVID-19 finance committee, county legislators, and department heads. I feel really good about the long-ranging impacts that will accrue from this effort.”

“While we have put forth a great plan for game-changing projects that will result from the ARPA award, we still have a significant amount of work to do,” said Chagnon. “The County Planning Board needs to review each capital project, and every project will need final approval from the legislature once they have been carefully and thoroughly defined and resolutions prepared. That being said, I am very pleased with this plan and want to thank the ARPA Committee, the department heads, the legislature, and everyone else that has had a hand in this effort.”

To view a complete list of the projects included in the County’s approved ARPA Plan, visit the County Executive’s page of the county website at: https://chqgov.com/county-executive/County-Executive


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