Myers clarifies new regulations for ARPA fund usage

Myers clarifies new regulations for ARPA fund usage

Image Credit: Dave Mast

American Rescue Plan Act dollars have been available for township government to utilize, but sifting through what is eligible spending and how and where those funds can be spent is a maze that can be confusing.

During the recent Holmes County and Township trustee gathering on Saturday, March 26 at Harvest Ridge, Marisa Myers of the Ohio Township Association and lobbyist in Columbus provided an update on the issues facing township organizations to township trustees, who were eager to learn more.

Initially, she focused on the proposition for the State of Ohio to implement a pause on the gas tax increase that has hit many people hard in recent times. She said that would not be in the interest of township governments.

“There’s this belief that with all of the government money being handed out right now, these townships are flush with cash right now and they don’t need that gas tax anymore,” Myers said. “That isn’t true, and it is one of the things we are keeping a close eye on so we know you (as township trustees) have adequate funding for your roads both now and in the future.”

She then went on to explore the federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, which townships have been receiving since the pandemic’s early days. She said when that funding first came out, small governments could invest their funding in four different areas, and deciding where to dedicate that funding was critical. She said initially townships and counties had to do calculations for lost funding for lost revenue to provide proof their funding was going to where it was necessary.

“That created funding that was much more flexible,” Myers said. “You could use regular replacement funds much more easily. What the federal program has done is to create a new program called federal allowance. You don’t have to do any calculations, and it’s meant to help smaller government.”

Myers said townships could take up to $10 million to use as regular replacement and said townships should no longer do the calculations.

“It will make your lives so much easier, and I highlight this because it is a one-time decision. Once you choose it, you’ll have to note it in your upcoming reporting, and it can’t be changed,” Myers said.

She then went on to note this change has opened the door for counties and townships to use these dollars for general government services. She said under federal law, services provided by recipient governments are general government services unless the treasury has stated otherwise. She said that opens a world of doors for spending that would qualify under the general government title.

She said rainy day funds and debt services are two areas that don’t qualify, and the only way a township could get caught up is by trying to finance a new project.

Myers said in sum that general government services are things small governments do every day. Falling under that blanket is paving and repairing township roads, as well as services including but not limited to maintenance or pay-go funded building of infrastructure like roads; modernization of cybersecurity including hardware, software and protection of critical infrastructure; health services; environmental remediation; school or educational services; and the provision of police, fire and other public safety services.

“These are duties you’re providing to your community,” Myers said. “They made this much more flexible to utilize these ARPA funds.”

She said reporting for the use of these funds is coming up and can be completed online. The treasury has set up a log-in so townships can easily log in, set a password, and email and complete their reports. The first reporting data comes from the month of March.

“You can still be spending money in March, so this is kind of like building a plane and flying it at the same time,” Myers said. “We will continue to distribute more information as it becomes available.”

She said the treasury website at www.ohiotownships.org does have a tutorial video to help walk people through the process.


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