A recent rule change to the American Rescue Plan Act means El Paso County can use a portion of its almost $140 million in federal relief money to help improve and maintain roads, El Paso County officials said Tuesday.
The unexpected $10 million windfall will help fill a financial pothole that remained after voters in November rejected a ballot measure that would have boosted the bankroll for such work. The ARPA Final Rule, as it is called, “allows counties to take an irrevocable one-time $10 million assumed lost revenue allowance” which can be used for “any regular government service,” according to a county news release.
“This ARPA allocation for roads is in addition to the extra $14 million appropriated during the regular 2022 budget session and this, more than anything else, really showcases the (Board of County Commissioners') commitment to improving the quality of our roads,” Commissioner Holly Williams said in the release.
Signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act is a sweeping initiative aimed at helping the nation recover from the pandemic by underwriting struggling municipalities, public agencies and small businesses.
El Paso County will get just under $140 million total in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The county received its first allocation of $69.9 million last spring and will receive its second allocation of the same amount in May.
All the money has been allocated, including $10.4 million for 627 local businesses, including 525 small businesses and 102 nonprofits, county Controller Nikki Simmons said in a Tuesday update to commissioners.
“The one main area we spent most of the money in is economic recovery and workforce development,” Simmons said in her presentation.
Simmons called the rule update — which also expanded the definition of “infrastructure” regarding stormwater infrastructure and broadband internet access — “really exciting.”
“We’re going to be able to put so much of this funding into local infrastructure with $15 million in stormwater (and) $10 million in surface road infrastructure,” Simmons said. “It’s going to be huge.”
El Paso County has also allocated $20 million to water infrastructure projects and $6 million to broadband infrastructure projects, officials said.
“Without this once in a lifetime investment in water projects, small municipalities and water districts would not be able to secure funding for necessary improvements to water infrastructure,” Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez said. “These projects will support the necessary infrastructure for our county’s growth for the next generation.”
The federal rescue money also includes almost $2.1 million in grants for eight local tourism and hospitality facilities.
Among recipients is Visit COS, the local player in an industry hit particularly hard during the pandemic.
“Visit Colorado Springs is grateful to receive funding from the ARPA grant so we can continue aiding the Pikes Peak Region in recovery efforts,” said Doug Price, president and CEO of Visit COS. “The funds will be used to ensure we can effectively and efficiently advertise our destination to visitors. As a shared community value, tourism provides benefits to all residents.
“More advertising dollars will result in additional revenue that will improve both our visitor experience and residents’ quality of life.”