Tens of millions of dollars soon will be pouring into Howard County, as the City of Kokomo, Howard County, and all area schools will receive a combined $57,701,611.92.
The money is making its way to the area thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $1.9 trillion federal aid package passed first announced by Pres. Joe Biden in January and signed into law in March. The bill provides monetary relief to states, counties, municipalities, and schools around the country. The bill requires the funds to be dispersed within 60 days of passage. The entities should receive the funds in mid-May.
The City of Kokomo is set to get the biggest chunk of change in the area, $20.63 million. Howard County will receive $16.01 million, while the towns of Russiaville and Greentown are receiving $230,000 and $490,000, respectively.
In addition to local municipalities, area schools are also set to receive millions in funding from the ARP.
Kokomo School Corporation is set to receive the largest chunk of funding for area schools, to the tune of $14,683,307.26. In addition, Northwestern School Corporation will receive $1,278,461.57, while Eastern Howard School Corporation is set to bank $741,195.25. Western School Corporation will get $1,785,284.08, while Taylor Community School Corporation will receive $1,853,453.80.
The bill provides some language as to what the funds can be used for by local municipalities. Primarily, the bill provides aid to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications in various sectors and industries, households, small businesses, nonprofits, tourism, travel, and hospitality.
The bill also allows eligible employees who performed essential work during the pandemic to receive premium pay, which would be decided by each government receiving the funds.
Each government recipient can use the funds to alleviate revenue reductions that occurred due to the pandemic, and the bill allows the funding to be used to invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
In addition, funds can be allocated to private nonprofit organizations, tribal organizations, corporations involved in the transport of passengers or cargo, and special-purpose units of state or local governments. Each of those entities would be required to use funds in line with the preceding requirements.
Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore said that while the city has not yet received specific provisions on how the ARP funds may be spent, city officials have begun meeting to start putting together a plan for how the money will be used.
“City officials have met to start putting a plan together for the potential uses of said funds and where opportunities may exist to free up funding within other anticipated city projects,” Moore said. “It is our understanding that we will receive the necessary directions about the time the first disbursement of funds are released. Once we receive those guidelines, it is my plan to meet with members of the city council as well to finalize the uses of our allotment of funding.”
According to Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman, county officials are working on a list of possible uses of the funding and are expecting the first set of funds this month.
Not all of the funds will be doled out at once. The U.S. Treasury can hold up to half of the funds in the first disbursement but must release the rest of the funds within a year, according to the bill. The ARP requires funds to be spent by the end of 2024.
As for the schools, according to the Indiana Department of Education website, they can use the funds to reimburse loss of expenses sustained during the pandemic through September 2024.
Schools are required to use at least 20 percent for funding summer programs, afterschool programs, and other extended learning and enrichment programs. The fund also can be used to fund improvements for fighting COVID-19, such as sanitation training for staff, purchasing personal protective equipment, or obtaining additional space to ensure social distancing.
KSC Communications Director Dave Barnes said officials are discussing possible uses of the funds and likely would consider increasing the number of social workers and teachers at schools, providing professional development opportunities for teachers, improving HVAC and ventilation systems at one or more of the school buildings, purchasing sanitation resources to lessen the spread of the virus, and expanding technology access for students.
Barnes said conversations for uses of the funds were ongoing, and the above possibilities were only a selection of what the school corporation’s funding may be used for.
Taylor Community School Corporation Superintendent Chris Smith said his school corporation is looking to hire staff to offset learning loss both inside and outside of the classroom in the form of behavioral specialists.
Smith added that he also is looking to provide a stipend for staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indiana is set to receive around $5.8 billion from the ARP. To compare Kokomo to other municipalities, the cities of South Bend and Elkhart are expected to receive $63.19 million and $18.98 million, respectively.