Lake County considers options for second round of federal relief funding

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The books are closed on $121 million in federal CARES Act funds, and Lake County officials are now considering how best to allocate the second infusion of COVID relief money.

Lake County will receive $136 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding. Half have been received and the rest are expected in April. Unlike the CARES Act funds, which came during the chaotic early days of the pandemic, county officials have a better understanding of how to deal with a myriad of details.

An initial list of about $40 million in potential expenditures, including $7 million for a permanent homeless shelter at a fixed site, is under review, said county deputy administrator Jim Hawkins.

CARES Act funds arrived in unprecedented circumstances and resources had to be allocated to where they were needed in a short period of time. Eighty percent of the funding was allocated in November 2020.

Analyzing needs, processing and categorizing requests, and navigating the rules required a monumental effort on the part of county staff. A special County Council Finance Committee has been formed to help guide the process and make recommendations.

“We were like building the plane while we were flying,” said Jennifer Clark, a county board member who serves on the special committee.

CARES Act funding could be used for expenses incurred due to the public health emergency or to provide support, such as rental assistance, to those impacted by COVID-19-related business closures.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

The second round of ARPA funding can be used to meet pandemic response needs, as well as to rebuild the economy as the country recovers. That can include support for households, small businesses and affected industries, as well as investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, county officials said.

The county has until the end of 2024 to allocate the funds and until the end of 2026 to spend them. This cycle provides some wiggle room, but a considerable amount of work has already been done to categorize and prioritize potential areas where to spend the money.

The first stage focused on projects and initiatives offered internally by various departmental services in six categories: household assistance; infrastructure and facilities; economic and commercial investments; public health; county operations; and income replacement.

More than $108 million in suggestions were reviewed and about $40.6 million in recommended spending was presented to the special finance committee on Thursday.

“It’s not a definitive endorsement,” said county board member Paul Frank, who chairs the committee.

Deputy County Administrator Matt Meyers said the list is fluid and options will continue to be refined and prioritized as needed. Recommended projects that have received committee consensus will move on to other committees before being submitted to the full county council for final approval in March.

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