Communities consider uses for COVID relief funds

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Millions of dollars in pandemic relief is coming into government coffers across the county as leaders prepare to determine how to use the funds.

The money is from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which will deliver $350 billion for state, local, territorial and Tribal governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hancock County and its municipalities will get half of their allocations this year and half next year, equaling a total determined by a formula based mostly on population.

Funds can be used to support public health expenditures; address negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic; replace lost public sector revenue; provide pay for essential workers; and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Hancock County government is getting nearly $15.2 million and has received its first installment, county auditor Debra Carnes said.

John Jessup, president of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, is part of a committee of county officials working to determine how to use the funds.

“We’ve got some broad ideas about the categories that it can go in and what we’d like to see it go towards as far as infrastructure and help directly to not-for-profit entities,” Jessup said.

He’d like input to come from beyond the committee as well.

“My hope is that we open it up for some public comment and discussions on what the community would like to see,” he said.

Greenfield, the county’s biggest municipality, is getting nearly $5.2 million.

Officials with the town of New Palestine have already received half of the $577,571 they’ll be getting in COVID relief funds.

The town’s council created a committee to oversee the usage of the money. The committee is composed Jim Robinson, town manager; Yvonne Jonas, clerk treasurer; Clint Bledsoe, council member; Bob Ehle, New Palestine chief of police; and Julie Lucas, community and Main Street representative.

Robinson said they’ve had one committee meeting and a Zoom meeting with other town leaders discussing what they can and can’t spend the money on due to federal guidelines.

“Most of the money lends itself to being spent on storm and wastewater,” Robinson said. “We want to make sure we spend it correctly.”

Robinson noted town officials are looking into business and revenue loss, but like most towns in the county, sewer and storm water funds need the money because of so much growth in the area.

“We’re getting to the point where our backs are going to be up against the wall in those areas,” Robinson said, noting the money will come in handy.

Still, he noted while it’s a good chunk of money, it’s not nearly enough for what the town needs.

“One of the common threads seems to be it’s not enough money,” Robinson said. “The COVID hurt us, but the growth is hurting us too.”

Robinson noted if the money ends up going to the New Palestine sewer department it can help keep utility rates down, and that will end up benefiting town residents.

Fortville is getting nearly $1 million, and Melissa Glazier, the town’s clerk-treasurer, is expecting the first half soon. With funds able to go toward water infrastructure, the town will likely use them to help build its new water plant. While the current plant has been upgraded over the years, it’s currently over 60 years old and nearing the end of its life cycle. The new plant will also be designed to handle the town’s ongoing and projected growth.

“This is perfect timing for us,” Glazier said of the incoming funds.

McCordsville’s provision totals nearly $1.7 million. The town council earlier this month voted unanimously to authorize council president Barry Wood to sign paperwork for the funds, and indicated their intention to start determining where the money will go.

The first half of the over $1.3 million coming to Cumberland is expected soon, said town Clerk-Treasurer Erica Salmon. Town council members earlier this month approved a plan for the funds, which includes replacing lost public sector revenues to the town’s general fund, investigating partnering with nonprofit organizations that are addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, and investing in sewer infrastructure.

More than $200,000 is coming to the town of Shirley. Leaders there have yet to decide how it will be used, but Clerk-Treasurer Teresa Hester expects it will go toward water, wastewater or other infrastructure.

“There’s always something that needs to be repaired,” she said.

Wilkinson will get about $100,000, said Clerk-Treasurer Janette Young, who added the town has already received its first half. The town council will hold a meeting in a couple weeks to discuss the matter in more detail.

Kristy Deer of the Daily Reporter staff contributed to this story.

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Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund allocations

Recipients have received half or will soon

  • Hancock County: $15,183,218
  • Greenfield: $5,194,123
  • McCordsville: $1,688,552.80
  • Cumberland: $1,358,473.35
  • Fortville: $939,665.29
  • New Palestine: $577,571
  • Shirley: $200,486
  • Wilkinson: $100,000

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