Commissioners Discuss How to Spend $36M in Federal COVID-19 Recovery Funds

Posted on June 23, 2021 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Commissioners yesterday discussed how to spend $36 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, which is aimed for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Unlike the $32 million CARES Act federal funding, which the county was required to spend during 2020 for COVID-19 expenses, such as testing centers and medical supplies, ARPA funding does not have to be fully expended until 2026.

Allowable ARPA expenditures include storm water, infrastructure and health care improvements.

The board previously discussed plans to use a $500,000 allotment for the future City of Milton wastewater treatment.

Although staff suggestions had included the possibility of funding broadband Internet, Vice-Chairman Bob Cole, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Chairman Dave Piech, said he wanted to remove that option from consideration.

Additionally, Cole supported District 3 Commissioner James Calkins’ suggestion to fund improvements at Jay Hospital.

“Our seniors need access to good health care, and I want to make some improvements so that our seniors in the north end of the county have a hospital where they feel comfortable. Jay Hospital is outdated in some ways, such as the ambulance platform, which needs to be raised to accommodate newer ambulances, which are higher.”

District 1 Commissioner Sam Parker pushed for allocating the majority of the funding for road infrastructure.. “I am 100% going to beat the drums to make that part of this game plan.”

Overall the board agreed to focus on infrastructure needs and directed to explore the extent to which road improvements could be funded use ARPA money. No vote was taken, and commissioners will revisit the options during a future meeting.