Spokane County Ready to Allocate $101 Million in Federal Stimulus Funds | Washington – Natural Self Esteem

(The Center Square) – Spokane County has taken a patient approach to allocating $101 million in American Rescue Plan dollars to ensure all spending is fully compliant with federal regulations.

That groundwork will soon pay off as the county is ready to begin promoting a variety of projects, says Jeff McMorris, community engagement and public policy adviser.

“We really want to monitor all of our ducks in a row,” he said in an interview with The Center Square.

After the district received the first half of its ARP allocation last year, McMorris said the district commission asked the US Treasury for advice on what should and shouldn’t be funded.

In January, the Treasury Department identified 80 subgroups eligible at seven levels under the five broad categories: public health, economic support for households and businesses, services for disproportionately affected communities, premium payments for essential workers, broadband/water/sewage infrastructure, and replacement of proceeds.

Tracking the expenses, which may be associated with 100 or more contracts, then became the county’s challenge, McMorris said. He said ARP is set up on a reimbursement process, so many invoices are processed at once.

To this end, the district commission applied to an accounting firm with a software package sophisticated enough to track expenses and generate reports for financial audits. Officers selected the Clifton Larsen Allen company of Spokane, commonly known as CLA Professional Services.

CLA will be paid $505,000 by the end of 2026, then all projects must be completed. The district also paid the company $5,000 in incorporation expenses.

“Your software is designed to make reporting much easier and significantly reduce staff time – it will help us on many fronts,” said McMorris. “We’re excited to see how all the parts work.”

He said the deal with CLA is now being finalized. Once this is done, the county’s finance staff will be trained in data entry.

They are being asked to do this manually for several projects that the District Commission has decided to move forward while they set up the infrastructure for a broader distribution of funds.

One is a $5 million award to the Innovia Foundation to address educational disparities.

McMorris said the Innovia Foundation is the only bidder in this space. He said the nonprofit will use the funds for an initiative to help more than 100 school districts in 20 counties across eastern Washington and Idaho prepare students for rewarding, well-paying careers.

The district received 10 applications for the $4 million earmarked to expand the area’s drinking water supply to meet future growth needs.

McMorris said the commissioners added $105,000 to this category to fully fund the financial applications of three finalists. No more than 35% of a project will be awarded ARP dollars.

The bulk of the funding in this subgroup – $4 million – will go to the Whitworth Water District in north Spokane. The water utility is conducting a $14 million expansion of its pipeline distribution system.

The Trentwood Irrigation District in the northern Spokane Valley received $74,900 for system improvements.

The final chunk of funding, $30,200, went to the Irvin Water District east of Millwood for upgrades.

McMorris said the contracts with the three companies are yet to be approved by the Commission.

He said the county will be releasing calls for proposals in other categories in two or three weeks. Commissioners Mary Kuney, Josh Kerns and Al French decided this week to avoid confusion and potential conflict by not promoting projects in similar categories at the same time.

The county did not have to go through the RFP process for spending federal funds on a local stormwater system project because the work is being performed by a government agency, he said.

He said the commission has already approved $5.5 million to stop flooding in the crawl space and basements of an established development in West Terrace Heights.

He said ARP also has a formula that allows agencies to replace lost revenue, such as sales taxes, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spokane County will claim $9.63 million for 2020.

The sale of Spokane County Raceway to the Kalispel Tribe in 2021 raised the general fund enough to reduce the ARP reimbursement to about $3 million for that year, McMorris said.

He’s been combing through budgets for the past two years to see how much the county can get. McMorris expects the ARP reimbursement funding level to return to approximately $9 million in 2022 and 2023, the final year for these claims.

He said spare dollars are ARP funds that could be used at the discretion of elected bodies, although they could not be spent on prison operations.

The county can also use a portion of federal funds to meet administrative costs associated with distributing and tracking millions. McMorris said the commission has opted for the option of recovering 10% of expenditure on each award, excluding work done by government agencies or reimbursement of revenue.

If contracts are awarded, McMorris said CLA’s software package will allow residents to track expenses. The portal will be published on the county’s website and there will still be opportunities for public contributions.

He said the second half of the ARP dollars allocated to the county is expected to arrive soon. The funds come from the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill approved by Congress in 2021.

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