Simplified: Minnehaha County has $37.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). But – as commissioners learned Tuesday – they've got three times that amount in funding requests.

Why it matters

  • This is money that came directly from the federal government to the county, which means it's up to the county to make sure spending follows the rules laid out in ARPA (e.g. much of the money spent has to relate in some way to pandemic impacts).
  • In total, there are approximately $66 million in requests from groups outside the county – primarily focused on improving water infrastructure.
  • Additionally, there $26.5 million in county costs that could qualify for the money. And if legislation loosening how ARPA funds can be spent passes Congress, there's another potential $21.2 million in proposed projects on the table.
"The need is great, and resources are limited," County Commission Chair Dean Karsky said Tuesday.

What are some of the projects being considered for this funding?

Let's start with some of the projects outside the county.

  • The majority of external requests were related to water and sewer infrastructure in the county. That includes the expansion of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System, as well as requests from Brandon, Sioux Falls and Hartford, according to County Auditor Ben Kyte.
  • Smaller requests also came from some local nonprofits including Children's Inn and Lifescape.

The list of internal requests is much longer, though the total funding comes in at a lower amount than the $66 million in external funding requests.

Here's a by-department look at some of the county funding requests:

The Sheriff's Office is looking for reimbursement for salaries for jail employees who worked directly with COVID-19 patients, as well as a registered nurse and an additional mental health counselor.

  • The office is also requesting some funding to buy additional portable radios for first responders and upgrade their radio system to get better coverage, Metro Communications Director Scott McMahon told commissioners.

The Juvenile Detention Center is looking for funding for a mental health counselor to help with an increase in mental health holds, as well as additional cameras and body protection equipment related to these holds.

  • The center is also asking for money to help kids with substance abuse disorders overcome their addictions – a service not currently offered at JDC, Director Jamie Gravett said. He estimated it'd cost around $10,000 to $15,000 per year.

The county is also looking at some potential building improvements.

  • These would include COVID mitigation measures like improving the air quality, creating more room for social distancing and upgrading the security badge system to help with contact tracing.
  • The county could also use ARPA funds to reimburse costs from this year related to COVID, including supplies and salaries of those who worked directly with COVID management in some way.

The county's Human Services department is also looking for reimbursements for expenses already incurred, including funding to help provide rental and utility assistance to those in need and help covering the cost of burials.

  • They're also requesting funds for direct grants to businesses and nonprofits negatively impacted by the pandemic, as well as job training support.

What happens next?

The county is working on a couple different timelines.

For requests related to reimbursing costs from this year, the commission has to make a decision by Dec. 31.

Overall, though, they've got years to spend the $37.5 million. Federal rules say the county has to have a plan for the money by 2024, but they don't have to fully spend it until 2026.

Commissioners are expected to weigh in on a potential $1.1 million in reimbursement spending during their Dec. 28 meeting.

Then, they'll have another work session in January to start making more specific decisions about where else the money will go.