County Discusses how to Disperse $91 Million in ARPA Funds from Fed Printing Press

On September 14th, the Board received a briefing on the $91 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds the county has received from the federal printing press. The presentation, which can be viewed here, discussed what the “money” can be spent on and recommendations from the county bureaucracy on how they believe it should be spent. Ultimately it is the Board’s decision on how the money is allocated but final decisions rarely deviate from what the unelected members of county government recommend the Board to do.

A new webpage detailing the ARPA funding and process can be found here –  https://www.pwcva.gov/department/finance/american-rescue-plan-act.

Eligible uses for the ARPA funds include:

  • Respond to or mitigate the public health emergency with
    respect to the COVID-19 emergency or its negative economic
    impacts
  • Respond to workers performing essential work during the
    COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay
    to eligible workers of the county that are performing such
    essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers that
    have eligible workers who perform essential work
  • Provide government services to the extent of the reduction
    in revenue
  • Make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband
    infrastructure

In discussions with county staff, some of Supervisor Vega’s priorities in line with the criteria above included:

Economic Impacts:

  • Small business grants and assistance based on pre-pandemic losses for ALL businesses hurt by COVID (not based on favoritism along lines of race and gender)
  • Assistance for and rebuilding Prince William’s tourism industry
  • Increased merit pay for first responders and frontline workers

Investments in Water, Sewer, or Broadband Infrastructure

  • Funding for the long awaited Countywide Water Availability Study to include the Rural Crescent
  • Funding for Occoquan Overlay District to protect Prince William County residents drinking water

Public Safety

  • More police officers to address increases in violence following COVID related budget restraints

Health and Welfare

  • Restricting funds for County-run Health Department

The reason Supervisor Vega does not support using funds for a County-run Health Department stems from the county’s discriminatory and exclusionary promotion of the COVID-19 vaccine which continues to use taxpayer funds to target and market only to certain races and segments of Prince William County’s population at the exclusion of others. Based upon this trial period, Supervisor Vega believes that a county-run health department will make similar decisions and prioritize the health of certain residents of Prince William County over others based upon immutable differences such as skin color and gender. Supervisor Vega believes all residents should be treated fairly and equally as possible, regardless of race or gender. Consequently, she would rather see services that would be assumed under a county-run health department remain under the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Prince William Health District.

In regards to recommendations for the first half of the $91 million, county staff recommended the following allocations to the Board:

 

 

 

Of these suggestions, $2.5 million for community feeding, $5 million for the Emergency Response Program, and $3.7 million for Grant Administration, Compliance, and Reporting were authorized by the Board the evening of the presentation.

The county is targeting a November 9th date to vote on the $16 million in Economic Recovery Initiatives. Of the $16 million, Supervisor Vega supports the $10 million recommendation for grants to small businesses and hospitality/tourism businesses to offset the hits taken by landlords resulting from rent relief and eviction measures, in addition to businesses in need of working capital and operating cost assistance.

Additionally, she is supportive of the “Elevate Workforce Program” ($1.5 million) which would offer free training and certifications from a network of education partners; create an Economic Development job portal to enable businesses to find the talent they nee; provide free GED to unemployed PW County residents, and provide Free GED Preparation through Prince William County Schools Adult Education Program.

She does not support the county’s recommendation to provide favorable treatment or special services based on race or gender nor does she support using taxpayer funds to go towards businesses that had bad credit prior to COVID as recommended by the county. She also does not support the cronyism exhibited in giving special treatment to targeted industries or specific geographical areas of the county. Supervisor Vega believes the free-market is the best allocator of resources to meet the needs and talents of localities.

Supervisor Vega is generally not supportive of providing taxpayer dollars to non-profits, as it violates the spirit of the voluntary nature of non-profits. At the very least, she does not want to see more taxpayer funds being sent to organizations providing political support and cover to certain members of the Board of County Supervisors, such as CASA. This would be another example of political patronage that should not be tolerated by the residents of Prince William County. This item will likely be taken up at the October 19th meeting of the Board.

 

– Coles District Staff

 

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