Camas could get $5.3M in federal aid

American Rescue Plan funds are meant to help city’s recovery from pandemic

The city of Camas will soon begin receiving funds from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, meant to facilitate the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson told city councilors Monday that initial estimates show Camas could receive $5.3 million.

Huber Nickerson said the American Rescue Plan, which passed in the United States House of Representatives on March 10 by a vote of 220-211, with zero Republicans in support of the bill, and was signed into law by Biden on March 11, set aside $350 billion for state and local coronavirus recovery funds.

“Those funds are significant,” Huber Nickerson said Monday.

Unlike local funds from the 2020 bipartisan CARES Act, which were determined by each state’s Department of Health, the local funds from the American Rescue Plan will be based on a population formula “and the state cannot change that formula,” Huber Nickerson said.

“Even though we have a slice of the pie, our population is below 50,000 so we’re (considered) a ‘non-entitlement city,'” Huber Nickerson told city councilors on Monday.

That means Camas’ local funds will be distributed over a two-year period, with the first installment coming this summer and another installment coming “sometime in 2022,” Huber Nickerson said, adding the city will not have to spend the money immediately, but can wait to see what needs arise after the pandemic has ramped down or ended.

“We will have until the end of December 2024 to spend those funds,” she said.

Although final details are still emerging, Huber Nickerson said the city likely will be able to spend the American Rescue Plan funds on costs associated with the following:

  • Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Covering costs incurred from the public health emergency;
  • Replacing lost, delayed or decreased city revenues due to COVID-19;
  • Addressing negative economic impacts on local businesses and nonprofits; and
  • Making necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

The funds will also help address homelessness and education programs hardest hit by the pandemic.

“This is super high-level, but there is more information coming this week,” Huber Nickerson told city council members on Monday.