Cities and counties looking to spend ARPA dollars

The federal funds must be spent on certain projects by 2026

LEE COUNTY, MISS. (WCBI) – Cities and counties throughout the region are facing decisions on how to spend millions of federal dollars.

“Since I was with the state auditor’s office forty years ago, I’ve never seen this kind of money coming into counties and municipalities,” said Lee County Chancery Clerk Bill Benson.

“It’s a once in a lifetime transfer of funds from the federal level to the state and local levels,” said Tupelo City Attorney Ben Logan.

Lee County received 16 million dollars in ARPA funds, while the city of Tupelo will get more than 8 million dollars.

There are limitations on how the money can be spent.  For the city of Tupelo, the federal dollars will go to infrastructure,  including some broadband, wastewater, stormwater, or drainage improvements.

Tupelo City Attorney Ben Logan says there are also matching grants from MDEQ, and a low-interest loan from the state’s revolving loan fund.   It could add up to 26 million dollars for those projects.

Logan says the city is waiting on MDEQ to issue guidelines to apply for the grants.  That is expected to happen in July.

” I know they want to turn the money around as quickly as possible, we’re looking to put a pretty good investment in our community, in water infrastructure, sewer infrastructure,” Logan said.

Lee County has waited on final guidelines from the Department of Treasury before deciding how to spend its share.  Chancery Clerk Bill Benson says getting the best use from the ARPA money is crucial.

“Make sure it’s spent wisely, for a project that is going to be there for a period of time, make sure you don’t get into recurring revenues, because it’s not recurring, it’s one-time money, and so I think the board will be looking at it for projects that make a difference in the county for a long period of time,” Benson said.

There are other issues cities and counties must consider, the rising cost of gas, building materials, and other supplies, which will increase the cost of any project.  Also, there will be a need for contractors to take on the projects, and many contractors say it’s tough to find people willing to work.

Cities and counties have until 2024 to decide how to spend the ARPA funds.  The projects must be completed by 2026.


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