Following the results of a community survey, the Green County Commission last week set its priorities for spending the latest federal coronavirus relief operations.
And while the county has been reluctant to allocate any of this money while awaiting final federal guidance, they maintain that those who have experienced the pandemic “will not be left alone.”
Individuals who have experienced worsening difficulties during these turbulent times need an appropriate and effective response. Economic insecurity, housing inequality, and poor health outcomes continue to present seemingly insurmountable barriers to citizens,” reads the report detailing the county’s priorities for their federal relief.
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law in March. More than $673 billion of this money has been allocated to state and local governments.
Of that amount, Green County gets $568,4225 to spend on the county’s restoration efforts.
A county survey in September found that mental health services, affordable housing, and services for non-residents got the best scores. When the commission was asked to rank 22 potential priorities, the commission received 1,719 responses to the survey.
“Input from survey participants will help identify where resources are being allocated and ensure that solutions are formulated to alleviate immediate concerns and promote sustainable long-term growth,” the report states.
In his annual “State of the County” address in September, Chief County Commissioner Bob Dixon said the county government would use the survey “as their guide” to distribute the money.
“We want to respond to our local citizens and understand how the citizens want us to allocate these resources,” he said.
Here’s how residents rank their highest priority in an unscientific survey.
- 834 Responses – Mental Health Services
- 531 Responses – Affordable Housing
- 528 Responses – Services for non-residential persons
- 526 Responses – Vaccinations
- 485 Responses – Economic Help for Small Businesses
- 418 Responses – Helping Non-Profit Organizations
- Number of replies 390 – Home food programs
- 370 Responses – Broadband
- 364 Responses – Childcare
- 339 Responses – Youth Welfare Services
Comparing those within Springfield to those living in outer Green County, mental health holds the number one spot, but small business assistance and broadband take the next two places.
While this poll was the most influential factor, the county consulted with other surveys, reports and hearings to create their final priority list.
- mental health services
- Affordable housing
- Services for non-residents
- Economic assistance for small businesses
- Helping Non-Profit Organizations
- home food programs
- wide wave
- Childcare and Youth Welfare Services
- water and sanitation
- Material use services
- Helping the tourism, travel and hospitality industries
- Education Assisting Early Learning
While the final set of recommendations is very similar to the survey, the priority of vaccines has been dropped due to their widespread availability in Greene County.
“Vaccination has been omitted from this final list because the Department of Health has allocated funds for Springfield County and Green County to allocate to its citizens. As of today, vaccines are readily available throughout the county and at this time no additional funding is needed or recommended,” the report read.
In its place, it lifted a boycott of nonprofit aid to “emphasize the importance of providers and the valuable comments their representatives left at the hearings.”
The county received the first payment of $28.464,260 on May 19. Of that amount, $14 million will go to the ARPA application process. The county will continue to receive applications for the next few months and will allocate the first round of funds in May and June of next year.
These apps will be chosen from among three broad categories of community, collaboration, and district.
The community category “prioritizes and responds to requests from non-profit organizations and small businesses.”
As of November, the county has received proposals from 26 corporations, nonprofits, and government organizations to consider funding for ARPA. Project orders added up to $80,907,907.
The application process will be used to award funds. We will use High Priorities as the primary method for ranking and recommending grants.”
The Collaboration category will be assigned to collaborative projects between county, city and/or state.
While the city government has spent $14 million of ARPA’s $40 million appropriation, it has held off spending more in hopes of cooperating with the county.
“All the time I’ve preferred a comprehensive package, but as it turns out, I think this is going to take longer than any of us thought. There are a lot of different pools of money than we initially thought, so Springfield Councilman Andy Lear said at a meeting earlier in the day. This month “coordination is hard”.
So far, the county has not set aside any money while awaiting federal guidance.
“(ARPA) will provide more opportunities to collaborate with assistance across jurisdictions, and we will begin deliberations on what can be done with our part of that money,” Greene County Chief Commissioner Bob Dixon said in September. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We aim to make the most of it together, although we are still waiting for the final federal guidance.”
Finally, the county category will be used for “requests of county administrators, potential county facility, and operational needs.”
But in their report, the Green County government assured residents that it would speed up to provide relief to those in Green County who need it.
“Green County recognizes the unique opportunity for ARPA funding to reverse the negative trajectory and improve conditions for all citizens. By conducting a comprehensive, comprehensive, and detail-rich needs assessment report, Green County has positioned itself to allocate funds to the small businesses and nonprofit organizations that will best meet the needs of its constituents,” As stated in the conclusion of the report.
County officials and leaders believe that distributing immediate relief along with investments in long-term capital improvement projects could put Green County on an unspoken path of progress. The end of the global pandemic remains the ultimate goal, but for many citizens of Greene County, their struggles could soon see some much-needed relief.”