Benton County JPs weigh virus-aid plans

BENTONVILLE – Benton County’s Quorum Court met Monday night to discuss ways to spend millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan.

The first topic was public health and economic recovery. Justices of the peace saw a 15-slide presentation that addressed those topics. County Judge Barry Moehring told them it was important to agree on the process going forward, and they unanimously approved the framework after asking for some changes.

The American Rescue Plan provides $ 350 billion in federal money for eligible state, local, territorial and tribal governments nationwide, according to a county news release.

Benton County will receive a combined $ 54 million – $ 27 million over the next two years.

The county will use a grant application process to distribute funds related to public health and economic recovery.

The county plans to communicate with nonprofit groups and other organizations that funds are available, and those interested can apply online through a questionnaire at https://bentoncountyar.gov/american-rescue-plan/.

Moehring said some community-based organizations already have reached out to the county asking about the federal money. It hasn’t been determined how much money will be allocated to each category, but that will come later in the process, he said.

Applications will be reviewed by Moehring, comptroller Brenda Peacock and committee Chairman Tom Allen for eligibility.

All applications will then be submitted to the American Rescue Plan Committee for an eligibility review followed by notification to ineligible applicants. Eligible applicants will make presentations to the committee, and later will be notified of their funding status, according to the presentation.

A template showing organizations how to present to the committee was one change justices of the peace asked be added.

Application submissions are due by the end of October, and the committee will begin to review them through the end of the year.

Eligible uses for public health response would be vaccination programs, medical care and telemedicine costs, purchases of personal protective equipment, support for isolation or quarantine, the enhancement of health care capacity including alternative care facilities, support for public communication efforts, support for prevention, mitigation or other services in congregate living facilities such as incarceration settings and homeless shelters, ventilation improvements in congregate settings, health care settings or other key locations, costs to facilitate compliance with public health orders, behavioral and mental health care services, payroll and covered benefits for public health and safety staff, including paid sick and paid family and medical leave, according to the presentation.

Delivering assistance to workers and families, delivering assistance to small business and nonprofit groups, speeding the recovery of the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors and supporting industries that were particularly hard hit by covid-19 would be eligible uses to address negative economic impacts, according to the presentation.

Uses to serve the hardest-hit communities and families include addressing health disparities and the social determinants of health, investments in housing and neighborhoods, addressing educational disparities and promoting healthy childhood environments, according to the presentation.

Justices of the peace will discuss county employees in relation to the American Rescue Plan after tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

About Yvonne Lozier

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