The Coweta County Board of Commissioners held a work session on Sept. 28 to discuss and hear input on how to spend the $28.8 million the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
ARPA was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, and funds from the act are to be used to alleviate the negative economic impact caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Coweta County received the first half of the $28.8 million earlier this year in May. The county will receive the second half of the funds in May 2022.
The County also has an online survey for residents to provide input and ideas on how the ARPA funds should be spent. The survey is available at https://bit.ly/cowetaarpa .
The survey will remain open until Oct. 12.
The state of Georgia will receive approximately $5 billion through ARPA, of which $2.4 billion will be available through grants to local governments, state agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Applications for funding through the state are due by Oct. 31, 2021.
Recipients of ARPA funds through the state must earmark the funds by Dec. 31, 2024 and spend the money by Dec. 31, 2026.
Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts said community organizations can work with the county on grant applications to strengthen the possibility of receiving funds.
"If we're in partnership together, I think it makes a better application," he said.
Fouts said the ARPA funds can be used in six categories:
- Support for public health response
- Replacing public sector revenue loss
- Investing in water and sewer infrastructure
- Addressing negative economic impacts
- Premium pay for essential workers
- Investing in broadband infrastructure
According to Fouts, projects paid for with ARPA funds need to identify a need or negative impact caused by the pandemic. The projects will have to identify how they will address the issue and connect the economic impact to the public health emergency.
Suggested spending for the ARPA funds included money for Coweta Cares, vaccine incentives an expansion at Browns Mill, sections of the LINC, personal protective equipment and an upgrade to the county's website.
Brown's Mill Battlefield saw an increase in visitors during the pandemic, Fouts said, and the physical recreation offered by it and the LINC allow funds to be used at those locations.
Body scanners and an expansion at the county jail, a medic unit at Coweta County Fire Department Station 5 and a DFACS building project were suggested for partial funding through ARPA funds.
Premium pay and rehiring furloughed workers were also suggested to the commissioners as expenditures.
"These are just ideas that need to be vetted further," Fouts said.
Fouts said the projects completed by the county won't be approved all at once. Instead, they will be completed in groups.
"The staff anticipates bringing the projects in a phased manner to make sure we're careful and thoughtful about the investment we'd like to make," he said.
At the end of Fouts' presentation to the commissioners, members of community organizations had an opportunity to comment on how they would like to see ARPA funds used in Coweta County.
Pamela Gable, the lead grant writer at the Coweta Community Foundation, suggested that ARPA funds be used to replace some of the housing that was lost because of the March 26 EF-4 tornado.
The majority of the areas that were affected by the tornado were also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, and the destruction of the storm only made the problem worse.
She also suggested using ARPA funds for job training programs in neighborhoods facing economic distress.
Candice Boothby with the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce told commissioners funding for small business assistance would be helpful.
Dr. Brendan Kelly and Dr. Julie Post, presidents of the University of West Georgia and West Georgia Technical college, respectively, both said to the commissioners that their institutions would be willing to partner with the county. Both presidents said they'd like to see investments in workforce development.
Post said WGTC would do "whatever we can do to partner with the commissioners to help people get into jobs and be career ready."
Jeff Phillips, assistant general manager of Newnan Utilities, also said that he'd like to see funds allocated toward workforce development to "help people earn a good living wage."
Jay Boren, CEO of the Coweta Water & Sewage Authority, said he sent a request to Fouts for ARPA funds on March 17 for an expansion of the Shenandoah Waste Water Treatment Plant, which cost $28.4 million at the time, and now exceeds $30 million.
According to Boren, the expansion would double the size of the plant.
Potential projects could be in front of the board at its next meeting, according to Fouts.