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American Rescue Plan funding requires paperwork, promptness for local governments

Local government officials met Tuesday to learn how to successfully apply for American Rescue Plan funding meant to help small governments recover from COVID-19

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WORTHINGTON — As of Tuesday, only nine of the 31 eligible government bodies in Nobles County had requested funds through the American Rescue Plan, but an informational meeting intended to help them navigate the process could change that.

“One of the issues we’re seeing is that local governments are putting in ‘Zero’ for budget information,” said Amy Jorgenson, director of the COVID-19 Response Accountability Office with Minnesota Management and Budget, explaining that ARP funding is limited to 75% of a local government’s pre-pandemic budget.

And 75% of zero is zero.

Instead, she explained, someone filling out the form for a township or city should enter either a pre-pandemic budget for 2020 or the total expenditures for 2019.

Among the local governments that have successfully passed the paperwork hurdles are the city of Worthington, Grand Prairie Township, the city of Ellsworth, the city of Dundee, Summit Lake Township, Wilmont Township, the city of Wilmont and the city of Adrian, as well as Nobles County itself.

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The paperwork asks for other very specific information, too, such as the entity’s active and accurate DUNS number, a unique nine-digit number identifying an organization.

When a group completes the application process, it receives half the money in 2021 and will get the other half in 2022. Use of the funds has to be decided by the end of 2024, and the money must be spent by the end of 2026.

While there is no final deadline for submissions yet, most likely it will be set for early October this year.

“If you miss it this year, you will be out completely,” Jorgenson warned.

Karl-Christian Johannessen, an attorney with the Minnesota Association of Townships, emphasized that the process of applying for the money is free if a township is doing it themselves, warning that scammers are advertising a $500 fee to apply for the money.

When received, the money can be spent on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, premium pay to essential employees, lost revenue replacement and infrastructure investments.

Grants can be provided through the governmental body to individuals, households or businesses in need, but they must be related to and reasonably proportional to the extent of the harm experienced, Johannessen noted.

Transferring the funds to a different entity is difficult, because they still need to follow the rules for the funding.

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Under the lost revenue replacement category, funding can be used for roads and bridges, fire and emergency management services, officer or employee wages and other government services, Johannessen said. They cannot be used on debt or “replenishing the rainy day fund.”

Water and sewer infrastructure projects must comply with the Clean Water State Revolving Fund or Drinking Water State Revolving Fund uses, and broadband projects must meet certain speed standards.

Johannessen advised townships to contact the Minnesota Association of Townships with questions, or visit its website for a video walkthrough of the application process.

Amber Eisenschenk, research manager, and Gary Carlson, intergovernmental relations director, both with the League of Minnesota Cities, encouraged cities to apply for the funds, as federal guidance on using the funds could potentially change.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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