COVID-19 dominated the April 27 Pierce County Council meeting when the council unanimously voted to allocate an initial $50.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, legislation passed by Congress meant to set up community vaccination sites nationwide, scale up testing and tracing, eliminate supply shortage problems, invest in high-quality treatments, distribute vaccines equitably and address health disparities.
Economic stabilization was at the top of Pierce County’s wish list in terms of allocation of federal funds to help mitigate the havoc wrought by the more-than-yearlong pandemic.
“The society that goes into the pandemic is not the same one that comes out, for better or worse,” council Chair Derek Young said, noting in his reading about the 1918 influenza pandemic that a lot of the responses back then mirror what is happening now in terms of economic hardships on society’s most vulnerable populations.
Plans call for Pierce County to receive nearly $175 million courtesy of the federal legislation over the next four years, with the first half — some $88 million — to come to the county in early May.
This first-round allocation also included adding $4 million to the Rollback Relief Grant Program the council approved earlier this month, which dedicated an initial $4 million from the general fund to support local small businesses with grants up to $10,000. That makes the total amount now available via the program $8 million.
Additional funding was allocated as follows:
• $5 million in support of entrepreneurship and technical assistance grants to Black, indigenous and communities of color;
• $2.4 million for housing and homelessness;
• $2 million to support local food banks and pantries;
• $1.5 million for a summer jobs program to get people back to work;
• $1.5 million for summer youth support programs.
Also, $3 million was dedicated to the county court system to help address a backlog of cases due to COVID-19.
Approximately $37 million remains to be allocated from the first round of funding. Over the next few weeks, the Pierce County Council will begin reviewing mid- and long-term needs to determine how best to spend the money.
“You know, I think we are affirming so many important and worthy causes through this proposal, and I know there’s a lot more to come in the work that we’re going to do,” Councilmember Hans Zeiger said.
In other business, the council confirmed the appointment of new member Ryan Hebert to the Pierce County Conservation Futures and Open Space Citizens’Advisory Board, as well as two new members to the Pierce County Aging and Disabilities Advisory Board: Ronita Boullt and Eva Robinett.
Finally, the council recognized May as Juror Appreciation Month, Mental Health Awareness Month and Foster Care Month, and also proclaimed the week of May 2-8, 2021, as National Travel and Tourism Week.
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