After months of discussion and reviewing eligible options, the St. Louis County Board is expected to vote on how best to invest $54.5 million received as part of this year's federal COVID-19 relief package.

Half of the American Rescue Plan Act funding, $27.3 million, is already in the county's possession, with the same amount anticipated again next year, a county news release said.

Anyone wanting to provide feedback to the County Board has options, thanks to Commissioner Ashley Grimm's efforts to slow the process.

People may attend and speak at either of the upcoming board meetings in October, or contact their commissioner by phone or email. A third option was arranged to email ARPA@stlouiscountymn.gov, and county administration will share comments with the board.

Commissioners will discuss a detailed plan for the funds at their committee of the whole meeting Tuesday in Brimson, 1839 Brimson Road.

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Assuming the resolution receives preliminary approval Tuesday, the board would vote on the spending arrangement Oct. 26 during its meeting at Brevator Town Hall outside Cloquet, 7246 Morris Thomas Road.

The rescue funds are required to be used to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its economic impacts through four categories of uses:

  • To respond to the public health emergency.
  • Address negative economic impacts.
  • Serve those hardest hit.
  • Improve access to water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

The rescue funds may not be used to offset a tax cut, deposit in pension funds, bolster rainy day funds or pay debt service.

The county's proposed uses for the ARPA funds it's received include:

  • $24.5 million to support the public health response to the pandemic and to invest in recovery initiatives.
  • $1 million for business assistance.
  • $11 million for water and sewer infrastructure.
  • $2 million for broadband infrastructure.
  • $7.25 million is proposed for other eligible projects ranging from road and bridge funding to economic development investments.

For now, $8.75 million will remain as uncommitted funds to allow flexibility to respond to new challenges or opportunities as the pandemic continues, the county said. Funds must be spent or committed by the end of 2024.

A further breakdown of proposed uses for these funds can be found at www.stlouiscountymn.gov/ARPA.

To date, the County Board has already approved investing $2 million in broadband, and $5.2 million for school districts to implement the "Check and Connect" student re-engagement program to address a truancy crisis brought upon by the pandemic.

Once the board approves the framework later this month, funding for any specific portion of the funds would still need additional board approval.