About $24 million in relief funds allocated for Grays Harbor County

The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden March 11, included just more than $14.5 million in COVID relief funds for Grays Harbor County, and more than $4.3 million for Pacific County.

The act also included relief funds for cities and towns, based on population. In total, about $24 million from the act has been earmarked for Grays Harbor County and individual cities.

The Washington Association of Cities estimates Aberdeen will get just under $3.7 million, Elma about $730,000, Hoquiam just under $1.9 million, McCleary just under $385,000, Cosmopolis about $360,000, Montesano a little more than $880,000, and Oakville $150,700. On the coast, Westport’s allocation is estimated at a little over $457,000, and Ocean Shores’ more than $1.4 million.

In Pacific County, allocations are estimated at a little more than $325,000 for Long Beach, about $650,000 for Raymond, and just under $370,000 for South Bend.

According to a fact sheet complied by the Association of Washington Cities, cities and towns can use their relief funds to recover the cost of its COVID response efforts; replace lost, delayed or decreased revenues due to the pandemic; address the negative economic impacts on local businesses and nonprofits; and make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay said one of the parts of the act that piqued his interest was reimbursing the city’s general fund for lost revenues in the general fund, which supports streets, parks, fire service and more.

During the recent Greater Grays Harbor Lunch with the Mayors event, Montesano Mayor Vini Samuel talked about the dramatic drop in revenue from “storefront taxes” due to the pandemic. Association of Washington Cities CEO Peter King told her the American Rescue Plan Act funding is designed to help cities recover losses just like that.

Cosmopolis Mayor Kyle Pauley said, “We are currently looking at possibilities for the funding. Much of it will be used to supplement the lost funds to the city due to revenue declines from business closures, such as Cosmo Specialty Fibers, and bringing the city to pre-pandemic budget levels. Other uses are limited based on the stipulations behind (Act) funding, but my hope is that we can use the allocation to offset losses and return some services to residents.”

Shay said he is working to clarify whether stormwater infrastructure is an acceptable expenditure; the act specifies water and sewer infrastructure but it’s not clear if stormwater projects are also allowed.

“If that’s the case we may want to look strongly at some project that ties into the north shore levee and the west Hoquiam levee to get a jump start on something that would be eligible,” he said. For example, the Hoquiam City Council recently approved a loan agreement for the Emerson Avenue pump station.

Shay said there are deadlines associated with the act and capital projects, and the fact that the pump station is “more or less” ready to go to bid would make it a good fit for the funding, if storm water projects are allowed. And if act money can be used it frees up what the city has already approved in city funding for more general fund activities.

Hoquiam Mayor Ben Winkelman said at the mayors’ event that the city is considering some of the act funds to be used “to address challenges in our court system,” including cybersecurity. He said he had asked his department heads to “take a close look at what we can do with specific projects” with the city’s allocation.

According to an analysis of the act by the National Association of Counties, funding going to counties can be used for assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, and aid to COVID-impacted industries like tourism, travel and hospitality. Funds can also be used for “premium pay” to eligible workers performing work deemed essential during the COVID public health emergency. Premium pay means an additional amount of up to $13 per hour for eligible workers during the pandemic.

Funds will be broken into two payments to each county and city. The first half of the allocation, under the act, is to be delivered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury by May 11. The second half is due to counties and cities no earlier than 12 months after the first payment.