Loudoun county supervisors are deciding how to spend the first $40.2 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, which arrived on June 1.
The funding is the first half of the expected funding from the relief bill. In total, Loudoun County is expected to receive a total of $80,324,909. The second disbursement is expected within a year of the first. The county must commit all of the funding by December 31, 2024, and must spend it by December 31, 2026.
County budget staffers have recommended of that first disbursement, $20 million be used to offset county revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That will also bring up the expected year-end fund balance to $45 million. A report to the county finance committee notes that is “in alignment with the traditional targeted year-end position for the General Fund.”
Typically that money, left over in the General Fund at the end of the fiscal year, is used in part for one-time expenditures, and in part forwarded to the next fiscal year to reduce the real estate tax rate. Finance and Budget Assistant Director Caleb Weitz also noted $5 million of that may already be spoken for, with supervisors having voted to consider allocating that for affordable housing programs during this year’s fund balance discussions.
The other approximately $20.2 million would go largely to near-term expenditures such as $9 million for economic development programs to support hotels and business recovery grants, a $3.5 million payment to Visit Loudoun to replace missed hotels tax funding, $2.5 million to support nonprofits, $1 million toward the county’s COVID-19 response, $1 million toward expanding broadband, and $100,000 to support the Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Services’ telehealth capabilities.
Another $3.1 million would remain for now undedicated while the county decides how best to spend it.
Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) asked why more wasn’t given to nonprofits, comparing the $2.5 million set aside for them to the $9 million for economic development grants and the $3.5 million for Visit Loudoun, although Visit Loudoun is also a nonprofit organization.
County staff members said this is only part of the funding being directed to nonprofits, and only the first part of ARP funding.
“We specifically were looking at a short term-need, so, say, in the next four to six months, knowing that we were going to come back to the board in the fall to more fully discuss the remaining uses of the ARPA,” Weitz said. At that time, he said, county staff members and nonprofits will have a better idea of how to strategically invest that funding.
Megan Cox, in the Department of Finance and Budget, said other funding is also going to nonprofits, such as the Community Development Block Grant.
“The ARPA fund that you have listed in front of you is just a portion of overall funding for nonprofits,” Cox said.
Other money will also be directed of Loudoun County priorities outside of the local relief funding, such as Governor Ralph Northam’s push to use ARP funding toward expanding broadband internet to all of Virginia.
County staff members also anticipate getting a better idea of how best to spend the money as time goes on, and given the long period of time they have to spend it.
“Finally, given that the eligible expenditure period lasts through December 31, 2024, it is likely that many other more effective means of combining available resources will form as outside resources are better defined,” a county report notes.
The county finance committee voted 4-0-1 to recommend those uses of the money to the full Board of Supervisors, with Chair Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) absent.