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Michigan County Awarding ARPA Funds for Infrastructure

Grand Traverse County received $18 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. It has awarded $15 million — with more than a quarter of those funds going to infrastructure. Broadband is among the potential uses in that category.

(TNS) — The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, one of the largest funding packages in American history, was enacted in March 2021. That plan included $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial and tribal governments, known as the "Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds."

Of those ARPA funds, Grand Traverse County received $18 million to spend on local projects, programs and initiatives.

As of May 1, the county had awarded $15 million, about 83 percent of the total available, to 28 townships and nonprofits. The remaining $3 million or so is reserved for the county's general fund to provide a "buffer" in case of revenue shortfalls going forward, officials said.

But the clock is ticking.

According to ARPA rules, the groups that were awarded funds must spend them no later than Dec. 31, 2026.

"We want to make sure that this money is properly allocated and spent by the deadlines so we don't leave any money on the table," said Commissioner T.J. Andrews at a board meeting earlier this year. "I'm concerned that some organizations are moving too slowly."

Administrator Nate Alger said his team is keeping a close eye on the groups and projects involved, and that some expenses can't be submitted for reimbursement until suppliers provide final invoices to those groups.

On May 1, the county board received an ARPA status report from Special Projects Coordinator Jenny McKellar. A Record-Eagle analysis of that report shows the $15 million awarded so far falls into eight major categories:

  • Mental health services: $6.3 million (42 percent)

  • Infrastructure: $4.0 million (27 percent)

  • Affordable and workforce housing: $1.9 million (13 percent)

  • Human services: $847,000 (5.7 percent)

  • Specialized job-related training: $800,000 (5.3 percent)

  • Recreation: $776,000 (5.2 percent)

  • Emergency services: $152,000 (1 percent)

  • Student health services: $150,000 (1 percent)

Individual projects that received the largest awards in the ARPA process included: $5 million for the Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness, $2 million to East Bay Township for sewer system replacement and $1.5 million to Wallick Communities for workforce housing.

Human services, job training, skilled nursing services and various infrastructure projects accounted for much of the remaining money.

Other notable projects include $235,000 to Pine Grove Church for the "Strong Foundation Childcare Center" and $96,000 for improvements to the Lossie Natural Trail in Whitewater Township.

ARPA funding for localities can't be spent on just anything, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Rather, those awards must fall into four main categories: (1) Public health, (2) Economic impacts caused by the pandemic, (3) Lost public sector revenues, and (4) Infrastructure (water, sewer and broadband).

"We set up a process for awarding funds about two years ago," said county board chair Rob Hentschel. "Administration staff reviews all applications for compliance — to make sure they meet basic criteria for ARPA awards. Then the county board reviews, discusses and votes on those applications."

"When you have that many minds involved, you're not going to get everything you personally want, of course," he added. "Overall, I'm happy with the issues we addressed. I don't expect any problems in terms of those organizations getting the work done on time, but it's certainly on our radar."

Officials noted that the controversial "Paycheck Protection Program" that was part of the original ARPA legislation is administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration with support from the federal Treasury Department, not local governments.

The PPP, along with the U.S. Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, have been widely criticized for poor implementation and criminal activity. According to a January 2024 FBI report, officials estimated that fraud consumed $64 billion from the PPP and $136 billion from the EIDL program.

"Unfortunately, many thousands of people chose to steal from these programs by submitting fraudulent applications," the report said. "The theft was massive in scale. ... Combined, these losses make the fraud the largest in history.

"Ultimately, these losses will be paid by American taxpayers, and worse, because most of the money was borrowed by the U.S. Government, our children and even grandchildren will be on the hook."

In contrast, Grand Traverse County does not pay ARPA grants up front. Rather, the county reimburses each group for actual expenses, paid on a month-by-month basis. So far, about 22 percent of the $15 million allocated has been paid in this manner.

The full list of ARPA awards, including reimbursement status to May 1, is available online at:

©2024 The Record-Eagle, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.