What to do with $66 million…

“I know there’s going to be creativity that I haven’t even thought of.”

By Jill Draper

Jackson County is sitting on a huge pot of money, and county legislators are inviting existing organizations to submit ideas for spending it.

The money, more than $66 million, comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and was designed to stimulate the economy after the pandemic. That didn’t immediately happen, so now there’s a somewhat new direction for these funds, said Manny Abarca IV, who represents the First District.

“This is a one-time, historic opportunity. It’s very exciting,” said Abarca, who expects the legislature will receive thousands of ideas. “I know there’s going to be creativity that I haven’t even thought of.”

Categories of projects that might be funded are small businesses, childcare, food insecurity, employment, broadband, housing, health and infrastructure, with many sub-categories possible.

Proposals may be submitted by any qualified organization that’s been in existence for at least two years, including for-profit, nonprofit, chambers of commerce and municipalities in Jackson County. Applications will be accepted from Aug. 21 to Sept. 21, followed by a series of public meetings. After listening to comments from residents, the legislature will rank the proposals and recommend priorities to the county executive.

This process is to make sure the spending is “not just a pet projects game,” said Abarca, who emphasized “the goal is to be clear and transparent, kind of counter to what the executive is doing right now.”  

Abarca listed some specific ideas “off the top of my head” as small business revolving loan funds, park and playground improvements, stabilizing senior housing and reinvesting in the Blue River Corridor. Other possibilities he mentioned are improvements to county courthouses, diversion programs to keep people out of jail, the Rock Island Corridor, support for nursing homes and grocery stores in certain areas, and ways to trigger more affordable housing. 

“This money is truly meant to catapult efforts that may be already underway,” he said. “It should be for projects that are catalytic for our communities.”

Abarca said the legislature will be using data from the Mid-America Regional Council to evaluate how and where there are gaps in services and opportunities for county residents. The goal is for projects to be prioritized and under contract by the end of the first quarter in 2024. The $66-plus million must be spent by October 2026, he said. The $66 million is what remains of the total allocation of $136,551,645 ARPA funds. 

The Jackson County Compliance Review Office is operating as the portal for proposals. Contact them at 816-881-3302 or cro@jacksongov.org.


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