How do Camas community members want to see their city’s share of the $350 billion federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars?
That’s what city of Camas officials hope to find out through a new, online survey regarding the city’s $6.8 million in ARPA funds.
“As we continue with our 2023-24 budget planning, we need your input when it comes to (ARPA) dollars,” the city stated on its Engage Camas website.
City leaders are hoping community members will take a brief survey on its Engage Camas site (engagecamas.com/2023-2024-budget-planning-arpa-funds) to rank six possible ARPA-funded projects in Camas.
President Joe Biden signed ARPA into law on March 11, 2021, to give direct relief to cities and towns throughout the United States that had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
ARPA funds were originally intended to support public health expenditures, replace lost public revenues, provide premium pay for essential workers, invest in city infrastructure such as water, sewer and broadband services and address the pandemic’s negative economic impacts, but federal officials have since loosened some of the spending requirements.
The city of Camas received the second of its two $3.4 million ARPA installments in June, and must obligate the funds by Dec. 31, 2024. The city has through the end of 2026, to actually spend the money.
Camas officials have already OK’d the expenditure of some ARPA funds, including a little more than $80,000 to help residents struggling to pay their utility bills, and indicated earlier this year that the city will likely spend about $1.4 million from its federal pandemic-relief funds to replace the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system that helps Camas staff manage the city’s day-to-day operations.
Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson updated the Camas City Council on the ARPA funds during the council’s March 7 workshop, and said the federal government’s new “standard allowance” rule that would allow Camas and other small cities with fewer than 50,000 people to declare up to $10 million in ARPA funds under a single federal reporting category could save city staff time and expenses related to complex audits.
The city chose to go with the standard allowance in April.
“Since the city of Camas (elected) to take a standard allowance with ARPA funds, we have the opportunity to use them for City projects,” the city stated on its Engage Camas site.
“This isn’t to circumvent how council is … going to the public and working with department heads for recommendations,” Huber Nickerson told the Camas City Council in March. “It just provides us an opportunity to work with the federal government. We can still use (the ARPA funds) for responding to public health emergencies, vaccination programs, adapting buildings to mitigate COVID going forward, assisting households, homelessness … we can still help travel, tourism and hospitality industries and communities impacted disproportionately by COVID.”
City officials are considering six projects that could receive ARPA funding, and have asked the community to rank the projects in order of importance. Those projects include:
- Crown Park improvements
- New and repaired cemetery urn walls
- A children’s “learning hive” at the Camas Public Library
- A new picnic shelter at Fallen Leaf Lake
- Funding to assist people experiencing homelessness
- Fire equipment replacements
To rank the projects in order of preference, visit engagecamas.com/2023-2024-budget-planning-ar pa-funds.