Brazos County receives $22M in American Rescue Plan funds
Infrastructure, broadband and mental health are just a few areas of focus for the funding.
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Brazos County commissioners met Tuesday morning to formally accept funds from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The rescue plan is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in February, the U.S. Senate in March, and ultimately signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021. A portion of the plan will deliver $350 billion for states and local governments to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury says the plan’s main objectives are to address systemic public health and economic challenges related to the pandemic, help stabilize the local economy, replace lost revenue from state and local governments for vital public services and help retain jobs.
At this time, no specific plans are in place for the $22 million. However, commissioners have begun a search process for an outside vendor to help administer the grant.
“Two weeks ago, I think we had gone out for an RFP for an outside consultant to help us go through that process as with every grant that you may get from the federal government,” said Duane Peters, Brazos County Judge. “There are a lot of rules and a lot of things you’ve got to follow and a lot of things that qualify what that money can be spent on, and so we need someone to help administer that grant.”
Peters and commissioners say some potential focus areas would be broadband, infrastructure and addressing mental health in the community.
“We haven’t had any discussions yet with the court about kind of directions we want to do, but some of the things that are mentioned in the overall discussion, things like mental health, we know that we’ve had problems with mental health in Brazos County, and there may be some ways to use some of that money to deal with that,” said Peters. “Broadband out in the rural areas, you know, during the pandemic when the kids were all at home, trying to do their schoolwork from home, there were a lot of areas that did not have adequate broadband coverage to be able to do that.”
Steve Aldrich, Brazos County Commissioner Pct.1, says the $22 million will make a big impact in the county and has a few things he would like to see done with the funds.
I would like to see number one is, in some ways that we can help small businesses in particular, but just business in general with some of the costs that they bore during the COVID crisis and getting more money into small businesses,” said Aldrich. “Our rent relief money did not go for commercial purposes or business purposes; it’s residential, so I would like to see something more oriented that way, but by and large, this needs to be a one-time deal type of money.”
Infrastructure is also at the top of the list for Aldrich.
“Infrastructure things that would be my preference. Things it’ll be here for a while that we’re not going to be funding continually,” said Aldrich. “Some of those infrastructures, roads, broadband, just any projects that the city of College Station, the City of Bryan, Wixon Valley, things that we can do together because everybody’s got money.”
Most importantly, Aldrich says he’s glad local governments have a say in the process of how the funds can be used.
“I’m glad that the decision was made to send it to local governments, cities, and counties directly, as opposed to it being funneled through the state,” said Aldrich. “I have to be honest with you. I’m not happy that this was all deficit-financed, but if it is, then let’s make something worthy and worthwhile about it. Hopefully, those guidelines will loosen up a little bit to where we’ll be able to do more than we’re currently available, that we currently can do.”
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