Camas officials have reached out to the public to help decide how city leaders will spend nearly $7 million in federal funds.
The city will collect $6.8 million from the American Rescue Plan, Act (ARPA), the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief and economic stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021.
The city received its first installment of $3.4 million in June. It will receive an additional $3.4 million next year, in June 2022.
Cities can use the ARPA funds to help small businesses and households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; support public health expenditures; provide premium pay for essential workers; recoup city revenue losses related to the pandemic; and make investments in public water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
The city must decide how it will spend the ARPA funds by Dec. 31, 2024, and must spend all of the $6.8 million by the end of 2026.
City leaders have posted an online survey on the city’s Engage Camas website to help gauge how residents, business owners and other Camas stakeholders wish to use the ARPA money. The survey asks stakeholders to rank possible uses for the ARPA funds — supporting Camas students and small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, building partnerships in the region, beefing up cybersecurity, improving outdoor gathering and event spaces, supporting people in need with rental, housing and food assistance, vaccine-incentive programs, job training and more. The survey is available at engage camas.com through November.
“Staff will then take the information and convert it into real-world projects,” Camas Communications Director Bryan Rachal stated in a news release.
The city will provide another opportunity for Camas residents and stakeholders to rank the specific projects they would like to see funded by the ARPA funds, using the city’s online Balancing Act tool.
In September, city officials discussed several ideas for the funds, including supporting recovery from the pandemic; building resiliency; maximizing partnerships; reconnecting the community; having public spaces for health and safety; cybersecurity; supporting economic efforts; providing community assistance; and protecting the city’s water, sewer, stormwater and broadband infrastructure.
Camas’ interim city administrator, Jeff Swanson, said city officials may want to use some of the ARPA funds to match other federal COVID-recovery grants, and Camas City Councilman Greg Anderson said he would like to see the city focus on building public spaces for health and safety, as well as provide community assistance to those impacted by the pandemic.
“Those two, for me, get us out of the hole we’re in for the whole community,” Anderson said, adding he hoped other city council members would consider not just what is best for the city in the short-term, but also into the future, when considering the best uses for the federal COVID-19 relief funds.
In Washington state, city officials have dedicated their ARPA funds for economic relief for low-income residents (Kenmore), to help local mental health programs (Port Angeles), for eviction assistance and landlord-tenant liaison programs (Cheney and East Wenatchee), to purchase body cameras for local police (Auburn), to restore city positions and help nonprofits (Poulsbo), and to buy more fire department equipment. hire more police officers and improve city infrastructure needs (Walla Walla).
For more information about how the city of Camas might spend its ARPA funds, visit engagecamas.com/american-rescue-plan-act-arpa-survey.