LARGO — Pinellas County and its many municipalities now know for sure how much they will be receiving from the federal government via the American Rescue Plan Act.
What they’ll do with the funds and how they’ll administer it is still far from certain.
The Act, which was signed into law on March 11 by President Joe Biden, awarded $350 billion in direct financial aid to states, counties, and municipalities to respond and recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19.
The largest recipients were Pinellas County ($189.3 million), St. Petersburg ($45.4 million), Clearwater ($22.4 million), Dunedin ($18.3 million), and Largo ($12.9 million).
The funds, which must be committed by the end of 2024 and fully expended by the end of 2026, can’t be used for everything, though.
Allowable uses include addressing the negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, replacing lost revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, and investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
“The intended outcome is to support community resilience efforts in the face of future pandemics and other disasters,” Meridy Semones, the city of Largo’s Office of Performance and Budget director, told commissioners earlier this month.
The U.S. Treasury is still providing guidance, which is one reason Largo has only planned to spend about $4 million in its fiscal year 2022 budget.
One of those questions is why Largo, a city of almost 85,000 people, received more than $5 million less than Dunedin, a city of about 36,000.
Semones said funding is largely based on population and annual Community Development Block Grant allocations from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city has an inquiry into the U.S. Treasury and is awaiting a response.
It’s not holding the city back from making plans, though.
“In the resilience category, we’re looking at making a number of planning-related investments that will impact the community for generations to come,” she said.
Some of those funds will go toward a new generator for Highland Recreation Complex, and efforts to increase shelter capacity to make room for social distancing.
Other funds will be spent on community mental health services, a mobile home transition plan, and renovation at the Central Park Performing Arts Center and the Southwest Recreation Complex pool and dive tower.
Dunedin officials have plenty of ideas about how to spend that city’s $18.3 million. Among them include infrastructure, affordable housing, economic development, public safety and community services.
Officials from both cities said they want to reach out to the community to get input on their priorities.
"I want to move really quickly on this because we are going to be competing for supplies, resources, people, all those sorts of things in the county," Dunedin City Manager Jennifer Bramley said to the City Commission.
Infrastructure improvements will likely be on the list for most cities and towns.
City of Seminole officials said that is the category they plan to target for their $9.4 million in funds.
“Infrastructure is allowable and can be used for our city stormwater program, which we are in the process of developing a master plan for,” City Manager Ann Toney-Deal said.
Largo and Dunedin also plan to enlist some help administering the funds properly.
Semones said the city hopes to use the funds to hire a full-time grant manager in fiscal 2022 to take on the planning and compliance work.
Dunedin took it a step further and will pay $361,000 for consulting services to Witt O'Brien's, a Washington, D.C. firm that is also providing consulting services to the county.
"We have timelines to get there, and if we don't have the expertise, we are going to lose valuable time and therefore lose our ability to do some of our projects," Commissioner Moe Freaney said.
TBN correspondents Tom Germond and Jim McConville contributed to this report.
American Rescue Plan Act in Pinellas
Pinellas County: $189,381,543
St. Petersburg: $45,413,871
Tarpon Springs: $12,810,334
Pinellas Park: $9,685,810
Safety Harbor: $9,023,379
St. Pete Beach: $4,801,684
Treasure Island: $3,466,408
Kenneth City: $2,564,872
South Pasadena: $2,551,849
Madeira Beach: $2,154,172
Indian Rocks Beach: $2,146,158
Redington Shores: $1,148,457
Belleair Bluffs: $1,095,367
Belleair Beach: $802,868
North Redington Beach: $739,260
Redington Beach: $736,756
Indian Shores: $735,253
Belleair Shore: $57,097