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Houston County Commission debates joining program to aid in American Rescue Plan spending
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Houston County Commission debates joining program to aid in American Rescue Plan spending

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Houston County Commission (copy)

The Houston County Commission (HCC) met Wednesday morning in a workshop format to discuss joining other Alabama counties in the Investing in Alabama Counties (IAC) program, created by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA).

The ICA is a new program set up for counties that is intended “to provide ‘tailored’ support services to identify the best and most important uses of the funding and to ensure ‘full compliance with both the federal and state requirements’,” according to a status report from ACCA.

“We want to assist counties in identifying the best uses, putting together those projects and giving the administrative and technology expertise to make those projects a success,” said Sonny Brasfield, executive director of ACCA. “The guidance is over 150 pages long right now, so we want to help counties interpret it in the same way so no one is left out on their own once audit time comes.”

To become a part of the IAC, the county will have to pay a fee, which will be 6% of the first $7 million and 4% of anything over that. This payment will be taken out of the American Rescue Plan funding. For Houston County, the fee is estimated around $930,000.

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ARP funding has specific guidelines set for recipients to follow when deciding where it should be spent, and the IAC will provide resources for counties to use to ensure that all decisions being made follow those set guidelines.

Currently, only the “interim final” guidance for ARP funding has been released, and Commission Chairman Mark Culver said no decisions will be made regarding the funding until the final guidance is released, expected to be in August.

Peter Covert, Houston County chief administrative officer, said that Houston County has received its first funding amount of over $10 million. According to the current guidelines, the funds can only be used for projects relating to broadband, water, sewer, or expenses directly related to COVID-19.

Counties with revenue loss have more flexibility in how the funding is spent, but according to his calculation, Houston County does not meet that criteria, Covert said.

As for the commission’s current plans, officials are looking at projects that will benefit citizens long term, Culver said, mentioning a water line project and industrial property expansion in partnership with the City of Dothan.

All future projects funded by the ARP act will have to be discussed and approved individually by the commission.

Sydney McDonald is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at smcdonald@dothaneagle.com or 334.712.7906. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

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