Another round of federal coronavirus relief funds are heading to the city of Mitchell.
As part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in March, $2.8 million has been allocated to the city of Mitchell, providing a financial boost amid the pandemic. On Tuesday, the Mitchell City Council approved an agreement that outlines some of the guidelines the city must follow to utilize the $2.8 million, positioning the city to receive the local fiscal coronavirus recovery funds in the near future.
According to City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein, the federal funds can be used for eligible projects that fit within the guidelines set by the federal government, which include water and sewer improvement projects, broadband infrastructure, aid small businesses and industries impacted by the pandemic like tourism and first responders’ wages, to name a few.
“They have a lot of restrictions on what you can use it for. They’ve also said you can use it for watershed pilot programs, nonpoint source pollution control and making necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure,” Ellwein said during Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall. “We’ll look at all of that once we get into the grant.”
Under the American Rescue Plan, there is $350 billion allocated for state, local, tribal and territorial governments to respond to the pandemic. That’s the portion of the relief funds that the city is set to receive $2.8 million.
The city must commit the funds to projects that are deemed eligible by Dec. 31, 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury's terms and conditions of the COVID-19 relief money. However, Ellwein said to her understanding, the money can be spent by Dec. 31, 2026 as long as the funds were committed to eligible projects by the Dec. 31, 2024 deadline.
“In some of the discussions I’ve had, as long as you have it committed to a project that’s specified in that timeframe, they will still allow it to be used if it’s committed,” Ellwein said. “We still have to go through the process of seeing if the projects the council wants to use the funds on can qualify, which we will have future meetings to discuss.”
The new round of coronavirus relief funds will come roughly a year after the city received about $4.6 million in federal funds that stemmed from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that former President Donald Trump signed into law in 2020, which was specifically designed to provide economic relief for entities that were drastically impacted by COVID-19.
While the city has spent over half of the money from the CARES Act, Ellwein said the remaining $2.6 million has been allocated to fund major capital improvements projects in the future. Each year, the council decides what capital improvement projects will be budgeted. For example, the city’s plan to improve the north wastewater treatment plant and the addition of a lift station on Dailey Drive near Lake Mitchell are among some capital improvement projects proposed to be budgeted in 2022.
Among the projects the city used CARES Act funds in 2020 included installing a $150,000 air purification system installed in city facilities, purchasing $200,000 worth of self contained breathing apparatuses.
“We were able to put those funds to good use and buy other purchases in 2021 that we wouldn’t have been able to afford without the relief funds,” Ellwein said. “It’s really nice to have that kind of money earmarked for capital improvements projects heading into the 2022 budgeting sessions.”