City begins process to determine how to spend federal relief funds



City of Whitefish officials are considering ways to use the estimated $ 2.1 million the city is expected to receive in federal assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ideas on the list of ways to spend American Rescue Plan Act funds range from water and sanitation projects to granting grants to nonprofits and businesses to program funding. affordable housing in the city.

CFO Ben Dahlman said that at the moment the city is collecting ideas from staff and city council to determine if and how certain items could be financed with ARPA funds.

“Keep in mind that these are designed to deal with the economic damage resulting from COVID-19, with the exception of water supply and sewage infrastructure projects,” he said. . “We take ideas and then try to determine if the funds can be used for that. “

City manager Dana Smith said part of the process will be getting feedback on how to spend the funds.

“We want to hear from the community where the funds are needed,” she said.

Discussing items on a list of potential options at a council working session last week, Smith pointed out that a grant program could allow hosting companies to apply for help because they have been forced to limit operations under the city ordinance during the pandemic. Another idea is to fund the cleanup of downtown sidewalks as a way to reopen safely.

Council gave little guidance on what it wanted on the spending list except to identify affordable housing projects as a priority.

Lori Collins, executive director of the Whitefish Housing Authority, asked the council to consider funding affordable housing.

“Residents and workers have been affected exponentially when it comes to rentals,” she said. “The funds could be spent on the sustainability of our city. We need to be able to house people and workers. We feel like we are losing our true city.

As part of the ARPA promulgated in March, local governments receive funding to respond to the COVID-19 health emergency and its economic impacts.

The city recently received the first distribution of just over $ 1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

A list of potential options for financing was presented. These included:

• Provide funds for the Edgewood Place Reconstruction Project for Project Water, Wastewater and Stormwater to reduce the amount of resort tax funds used.

• Supplement resort tax revenues that have been reduced due to COVID-19.

• To supplement the revenues of parks and recreation which decreased due to the pandemic.

• Work with the Whitefish Housing Authority on affordable housing options.

• Provide non-profit, individual and business grants related to the impacts of COVID-19.

• Help the library pay for the costs of disinfecting its public computers.

• Provide funding for hybrid meetings that allow online access and in-person participation.

• Purchase of radios for the police service.

• Provide funding for short-term rental law enforcement and compliance services.



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