CATSKILL — With federal stimulus funds on the way to Greene County, officials said improving infrastructure and building out broadband in rural communities will be tops on the to-do list.
Greene County is slated to receive $9.15 million under the American Rescue Plan Act. The legislation will distribute $1.9 trillion in funding to communities around the nation to aid in the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virus outbreak led to about 15 months of shutdowns and restrictions, bringing the national and local economies to a halt.
With many communities struggling nationwide to deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.
Counties will receive $65.1 billion in direct federal aid and state and local entities are in line to receive $362 billion under the legislation, according to the National Association of Counties.
Health, transportation, education and child care, individuals and other programs will also receive funding.
Before federal funds are disbursed, counties must meet conditions and requirements, and establish a plan for use of the monies. Greene County officials are working through the requirements and will develop a stimulus funding plan over the next few months.
Building out broadband connectivity in rural communities and improving infrastructure is expected to be among the top areas targeted by the stimulus funds, county officials said.
“Our real challenge is to apply as much of this one-time federal funding to build a better future for our residents and businesses,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. “There are a lot of hurdles we need to jump, but if we approach this effort as investment in our communities, we can bolster our economy and quality of life for years to come.”
The pandemic led to dire financial straits for many communities nationally, but Greene County was not impacted as severely, Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said.
“The economic shutdown of 2020 caught many counties off-guard. They simply weren’t prepared and ended up with budget deficits and service cutbacks,” Linger said. “Greene County’s fiscal discipline and planning prevented this from happening to us. County services, including a massive public health response, actually increased during the pandemic. The county continued to provide departmental services during all phases of the pandemic, scaling in-office personnel as restrictions were lifted.”
Taking a conservative approach to estimating sales tax revenue — the largest revenue source in the county budget — as well as prudent spending contributed to the county’s fiscal success through the pandemic, Linger said.
“Property taxes in Greene County are some of the lowest in the region,” he said. “We also have a ‘rainy day fund’ and a very conservative and responsible operations budget that delivers services while keeping a disciplined eye on spending. We are also one of the few counties that saw their sales tax revenue increase in 2020.”
Because of the county’s solid fiscal standing as the pandemic wanes, there will be additional restrictions on how the funds can be used.
“Since the county had its fiscal house in order and did not suffer what the American Rescue Plan Act defines as ‘significant revenue loss to the county budget’ — despite major impacts to our tourism and hospitality businesses — the county has restrictions and must comply with very specific rules in the use of the ARPA funds,” Linger said.
Funds disbursed through the American Recovery Plan Act can be used in five primary ways, according to the National Association of Counties. Funds can be spent to address the negative economic impacts of the pandemic; to support the public health response; to replace public sector revenue loss; for premium pay for essential workers; and for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.