Jefferson County drafts guidelines for remaining Rescue Plan funding

‘Last call’ to apply for federal relief dollars

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners are asking for project proposals for its remaining federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and on Tuesday drafted guidelines for what kind of projects might receive funding.

The county has $835,000 remaining in various American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, but unlike most public funding, those dollars come with few restrictions on how they can be allocated. Where they’re spent is left largely up to county commissioners.

Considering the demand for public funding from local governments and nonprofits, county commissioners said at their last meeting they wanted to make sure local organizations were aware the funds were available.

“This is really a last call for our ARPA assistance dollars,” District 3 Commissioner Greg Brotherton said Tuesday. “It’s not a normal (request for proposal) process, this is a qualitative award based on what we think is going to do the most good for Jefferson County.”

At their last meeting, commissioners said they had previously approved ARPA funding on a case-by-case basis and that a formal application process was never fully established.

District 1 Commissioner Kate Dean specifically cited the funding process for the Housing Fund Board — whose scoring system for determining which projects to fund was criticized as opaque by at least one recipient — as reason for promoting the funds availability and providing guidelines for which projects might be chosen.

“(Commissioners) are looking for projects that move the needle on housing, economic development, and public benefit in Jefferson County and leverage other funding sources such as matching funds for a grant funded project,” the draft notice said.

The board is looking for requests between $20,000 and $100,000.

The letter said commissioners would focus on organizations that haven’t yet received money from ARPA or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, but that groups that had received those dollars were still free to apply.

The board said in the letter many worthy projects will qualify, but not all will be able to receive funding.

“Ultimately funding decisions will be based on commissioner priorities and requests will be assessed qualitatively,” the letter said.

The deadline for proposal applications was set at Feb. 10.

Commissioners heard from three groups seeking ARPA funding at their Jan. 9 meeting, but County Administrator Mark McCauley said at the time those requests were not solicited by the county but came from organizations that sent letters directly to commissioners.

Those requests included $35,000 from the Jefferson County Rural Library District for continuing its digital navigator program; $100,000 from the North West School of Wooden Boat Building for repairs and upgrades to student housing cottages, and $20,000 from the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association to maintain its offices for five years.

Jefferson County is expecting its second $1.6 million payment through the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund but is unsure when that money might come in.

The county’s 2022 local assistance allocation — which provides additional monies to eligible revenue-sharing counties and tribal governments — will arrive by September.

McCauley said at the previous meeting that last year’s allocation came in October and he hoped this year’s allocation would come in sooner, but commissioners noted Tuesday that some projects will need funding before the fall.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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