Boone County expects to soon receive a little more than $6.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds and another $6.5 million next year, Boone County Council President Elise Nieshalla said.
In total, the county expects to receive $13,177,707 — half in 2021 and half in 2022. The first installment is expected “any time,” Nieshalla said. The second installment is expected approximately a year after the first installment. Neighboring Hamilton County was to receive a little more than $65 million, and Marion County was to receive more than $187 million.
The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March that included direct payments to individuals making less than $90,000 a year, along with grants and other funding for small businesses, counties and other organizations. According to the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury, the American Rescue Plan, through Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, will provide a combined $350 billion to eligible state, local, territorial and tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and “bring back jobs.”
Nieshalla said county officials are still evaluating how to allocate the funds but that criminal justice services are of particular interest, as the needs had already been identified by county officials prior to the county learning it would receive the American Rescue Plan funds.
“In January, we had a criminal justice roundtable with the major players in the criminal justice system to talk about what those needs are, long-term planning, etc.,” Nieshalla said. “When we found out that funds were coming to Boone County, certainly, that had been well documented as a need, so we are interested in seeing how this money could go to meet those needs and have been very involved in reviewing the interim final rule from the department of treasury and the frequently asked questions pertaining to that rule to determine if our criminal justice infrastructure would (be) eligible. We are in the process of reviewing it.”
Nieshalla said the county, if approved, would seek a “modest” expansion of the county jail, an increase in services for nonviolent offenders in the county’s probation and community correction system to help manage the jail population and an increase in mental health services.
Board of Boone County Commissioners President Tom Santelli said county officials would meet soon for budgeting meetings related to the funds. He said the county has already created a separate fund to specifically track spending the funds.
“We want to be able, when you come to us and say, ‘Where did that money get spent?’ (to) give you a very accurate picture of that,” Santelli said. “We are trying to figure out, how do we deliver the best possible value from those funds to our taxpayers and our constituents?”
“It is a huge responsibility to steward these dollars well,” Nieshalla said. “And we are digging in deep to figure out needs in Boone County that would serve the whole county. And in the case of considering putting the funds toward criminal justice needs, it’s for the purpose of further rehabilitation opportunities, and that in turn will bring down the recidivism rate further, which is good for Boone County and good for us all.”