With recent guidance from the federal government, Dubuque County staff have started planning an approach to spending the millions of dollars the county will receive via the American Rescue Plan.
The final estimate for the federal relief package’s allotment for the Dubuque County government is $18.9 million — even more than originally expected. County Budget Director Stella Runde said the county should receive half of that within a week.
The U.S. Treasury Department issued detailed guidance for the money’s use last week. Allowable uses are broken down into categories: public health response to pandemic, addressing negative economic impacts, providing equity-focused services, replacing public sector revenue loss, premium pay for essential employees, and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Local governments are not allowed to pay for tax cuts, deposit the money into pension funds or place it in rainy day funds. “As they continue to give us more clarity on what all of these mean, we’re learning a lot more,” Runde said. “This will help develop our response as a county.” To that end, Runde is helming a working group of nearly every county department head to consider the guidelines, find needs and develop evaluation
and public input processes for planned uses of the funds.
But the county’s allocation isn’t the only payment being made to government entities in Dubuque County. Another $30 million will be allocated to municipal governments in Dubuque County — more than $27 million of which will go to the City of Dubuque.
County Mental Health and Disability Services Director Dr. Ann Cameron Williams — as a member of the working group — has started reaching out to those city governments to learn about their priorities and needs.
“I have connected to each city in the county, just to let them know the county is processing their rescue funds and ask if they have any ideas of how money can be spent,” she said. “There is a lot of talk about water and sewer infrastructure, broadband investment, as well as individual payments to households of people who have been struggling through the pandemic.” County Supervisor Ann Mc Donough applauded this communication between governments. “ As we look at these ideas, we can look maybe at partnering with their priorities,” she said. Supervisor Jay Wickham was surprised by those actions and thought them premature. He accused Mc-Donough of giving staff direction that did not come from the Board of Supervisors. “I appreciate any employees that are proactive, but I think we might want to put a pause on contacting other local governments,” he said. “That should come from the Board of Supervisors.” Supervisor Harley Pothoff supported the effort to reach out
to the city governments. “It’s better sooner than later,” he said. “When we get to the point where we need to move forward, we have the information.”