Expecting a windfall, Social Circle City Council members discussed during a work session Thursday how to best use federal funds it could receive from two different sources.

City Manager Adele Schirmer informed the council that the city was eligible for $1,451,634 from the American Rescue Plan. The money would be dispersed in two equal payments – $725,817.50 by June 2021 and $725,817.50 in 2022.

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law on March 11. The plan’s comprehensive relief totals $1.9 trillion, with $65.1 billion slated for U.S. cities.

The purpose of these funds is to help communities recover from the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The money has various allowable uses, according to the Georgia Municipal Association: respond to the public health emergency with respect to the COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and non-profits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers of the city that are performing such essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers that perform essential work; for the provisions of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue (i.e. online, property or income tax) due to the public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year of the city prior to the emergency (i.e. Jan. 20, 2020); or, make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

Schirmer advised the council to consider investing in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

The city manager reasoned businesses can already get recovery grants through the Small Business Administration and tenants and landlords are eligible for funds through the Department of Community Affairs.

“This is a one- or two-time influx of funds, so it should be used for one-time expenses rather than annual recurring expenses,” Schirmer suggested.

Rescue plan monies must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024, she said. The city must also report to the Treasury Department how the funds were used.

The city manager said cities and counties could work together on joint infrastructure projects using allocations from the American Rescue Plan.

Councilman Steve Shelton said he wanted to look into using funds to improve broadband in downtown.

Council members also discussed getting a piece of the pie in the form of a congressional earmark request.

Schirmer said Rep. Jody Hice, like each member of Congress, could submit a request for up to $30 million in funds for a maximum of 10 projects across his district.

The period for submissions ends on April 15, so Social Circle officials stated decisions would have to be made quickly.

Mayor David Keener said he would contact Hice, and the council leaned toward using the money for sidewalk extensions.

“If we get some of it, it’s better than nothing,” Keener said.

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