Franklin County Government Center Rotunda

Even though it has had some of the money for months, Franklin County officials are still not sure what they can spend funds from the American Rescue Plan Act on.

Commissioner Dave Hinson said he recently took part in a conference call with Biden administration officials, and he still doesn’t have clear guidance.

“As far as any new final rules or direction from the Treasury Department on the money that we received, there’s still nothing definitive,” he said. “It’s just very gray and cloudy.”

The county wants to be “100 percent certain” how it can spend the $20.2 million it received in federal stimulus funding before it spends it, Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said. “We have a few ideas out there for consideration,” he said. “But before we start committing and doing anything, we’ve been told to wait until such time as we are 100 percent certain. It makes perfect, logical sense to us.” 

The county has received the first half of its stimulus money and will get the remainder in 2022. Brinker pointed out that the county has until the end of 2026 to spend the money. 

“These other governmental entities that are out there just burning through the stuff, I just think it’s premature and ill-advised at this point in time,” he said. “We’re going to take the approach of caution and proper application.”

County officials have discussed using stimulus funds for items like 911 and sewer improvements but have taken no action.

Although Franklin County cities have discussed ideas for using their share of the $1.27 billion in federal stimulus money allocated to Missouri cities, they have been slow to spend the money.

According to previous Missourian reporting, the expenditures have to fit in the following categories: public health response, negative economic impacts, public sector revenue loss, premium pay for essential workers or infrastructure projects.

The U.S. Department of Treasury has issued an interim final rule and answers to frequently asked questions. A Treasury official told The Missourian Monday that the department has been in contact with states and communities across the country to encourage them to reach out to them if they have questions about the rules.

In Washington, which is receiving $2.6 million in stimulus in two parts, officials have discussed spending some of it on the first phase of a broadband internet project, as well as a water tower and other water and sewer improvements. City officials also have discussed constructing an RV campground, which would be managed by the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Union officials have raised the possibility of spending some of the $2.2 million it is receiving on everything from police vehicles that were cut from its budget to water and sewer improvements, as well as access to a consumer tracking system that the city hopes could lure retailers.

In Pacific, which is receiving $1.3 million in stimulus, officials have discussed using the stimulus funding on water and sewer projects, as well as broadband internet. It also has discussed using $300,000 for operations at the Red Cedar Inn project along the former Route 66 once it is completed.

St. Clair officials have discussed using its $867,000 in stimulus on water and sewer needs.

The county also is spending the last of the  $12.2 million it received as part of the money allocated in the 2020 federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

On Tuesday, the county awarded $50,000 each to the New Haven/Berger Fire Protection District, the Gerald Fire Protection District and the Beaufort-Leslie Fire Protection District. Brinker said they were the last remaining agencies to receive CARES money from the county.

In June, county officials awarded more than $2 million total to 21 law enforcement, fire and emergency management agencies in the county.

The county plans to use the remaining 2020 CARES money to cover its own employee costs related to dealing with the coronavirus. The money will go to the general fund, not to employees.