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Supervisors receive update on $3.6 million in ARPA (Covid-related) funds

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Remember that $3.6 million granted to Plumas County from ARPA (the federal American Rescue Plan Act designed to address public health and economic impacts caused by COVID-19) ? The Plumas County supervisors received an update on the funds during their Dec. 13 board meeting. Zach Gately, the county’s new grant administrator, and DeAnne Blankenship, the consultant hired to help with ARPA, provided the information.

Blankenship, with the California Health Collaborative, presented some background before handing over the lead on this project to Gately. “You have capable hands taking over,” Blankenship told the board. Plumas engaged the California Health Collaborative to help determine how to use the funds, which had some federal guidelines. Blankenship said the collaborative gathered proposals from department heads and then polled the public via a community survey. The wish lists were compared and a plan was developed.

Gately presented a status update on those allocated funds:

Administration/Facility Services – $120,724:  The funds were earmarked to pay for the assistance of the California Health Collaborative; a TOT audit; air scrubbers, and reimbursement for increased janitorial services during the pandemic. Gately said that the county had paid for the collaborative contract and the janitorial reimbursement, and will be purchasing the air scrubbers in the first quarter of 2023.

Engineering – $286,000: The funds were to be used for the Beckwourth sewer pump and the Blairsden bridge project.  The sewer project has been completed, but went over budget and the county is pursuing ways to pay the difference. The Blairsden bridge project is set for mid-2024.

Human Resources – $1.274 million: The funds were designated for a one-time $1,500 stipend for essential workers, and reimbursement for sick time due to COVID. The board also approved the use of the funds to hire a grant manager. “I was hired so I am here,” Gately told the board. The sick time reimbursement has been extended, and the county is still finalizing the $1,500 payments to the Sheriff’s Office personnel.

Information Technology – $300,000: IT planned to use the funds to update the county’s cyber security and other related hardware and software items. Gately said that about two-thirds of the funds have been spent thus far, and included purchases to improve the audio/visual for board room live streaming and zoom.

Library – $24,794: The money will be used to improve digital access and services including e-books and e-audiobooks.

Sheriff/Jail – $707,521: The money was earmarked to purchase two new transport vans equipped with airborne particle mitigation, and update the computer system including the emergency response system. The vans have been ordered and are expected to be delivered in mid to late 2023; and the computer system installation is proceeding.

Broadband – $400,000: Broadband access and business grants were two public priorities. Staff is still trying to figure out how this money can be integrated with other funds earmarked for the same purpose.

Business/Community grants – $540,000: These funds would be used to offset COVID-related losses. Staff is developing grant applications and protocols for the county counsel to review. It’s hoped that the grants will be made available to the public no later than the end of the first quarter.

“This is such a large fund,” Gately said of the ARPA money. “I would like to create a dashboard in the near future … to see how grants are being spent and how much is left.”

County Administrative Officer Debra Lucero said the plan is “to be equitable in spreading out the grants across the county.” She said this could present an opportunity for the supervisors to hand out checks in their areas.

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