Lee County received its first half of American Rescue Plan Act money. But when the second installment arrives, it will total about $6.6 million.
So far, the county has spent or earmarked $943,507.
That includes $250,000 for social service organizations, almost $200,000 for new election equipment, $157,000 for boardroom technology upgrades, $120,000 in health department permit fees for businesses negatively affected by COVID-19, $100,000 for expanding the agriculture program at Sauk Valley Community College, $25,000 for the regional office of education, $22,000 for Lee County Tourism, $44,000 in administrative fees and $10,000 to The Next Picture Show art gallery.
That leaves around $2.36 million available from the first funding allocation.
The County Board agreed to extend its social services funding program Thursday after it didn’t receive any applications. The program allows area nonprofit community service agencies that provide aid to individuals and households up to $10,000 in funds. An application can be found at leecountyil.com.
The board also approved up to $250,000 for technology upgrades to the third floor boardroom of the old Lee County Courthouse. Board member Jim Schielein said they gathered some bids for the broad scope of the work, but they need to get some questions answered before presenting the board with a formal recommendation.
The funds for the SVCC ag program would go toward building a greenhouse and for implementing remote-learning opportunities in precision agriculture.
Starting April 1, several new rules will be in place loosening restrictions as to how governments can spend the money in some public service categories, such as public health, negative economic impacts, small businesses, public sector capacity, capital expenditures, and water/sewer infrastructure.
In the public health category, changes include capital expenditures for affordable housing, schools, hospitals and childcare facilities as well as additional uses for medical expenses and behavioral healthcare.
Funding also can be used for improvements to vacant or abandoned properties, including rehabilitation, maintenance, renovation, environmental remediation, demolition or deconstruction, greening/vacant lot cleanup and conversion to affordable housing.
Additional uses to disproportionately impacted small businesses are rehabilitation of commercial properties, storefront improvements and façade improvements; technical assistance and business incubators, grants for startup/expansion costs; and support for microbusinesses, including financial, child care and transportation costs.
Public sector changes allow hiring of 7.5% above pre-pandemic baseline levels; providing additional funding for employees who experienced pay reductions or were furloughed; maintaining current compensation levels to prevent layoffs; providing worker retention incentives, including reasonable increases in compensation; and paying administrative costs associated with hiring, support and retention programs.
It also changes capital expenses by requiring less reporting for projects costing less than $1 million that respond to public health and economic conditions in a community.
Capital expenditures that are generally ineligible are construction of new correctional facilities as a response to an increase in crime, construction of new congregate facilities to decrease the spread of COVID, and construction of convention centers/stadiums intended for general economic development
Water and sewer infrastructure changes include culvert repair, resizing, removal, replacement of storm sewers and other types of stormwater infrastructure; and additional projects pertaining to improvements to safe drinking water, dam/reservoir rehabilitation, and remediation projects.
The county is also looking into an exemption for governments receiving less than $10 million that would greatly reduce the reporting requirements for using the funds.