Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers Thursdayreleased his proposal for the county’s remaining $85 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which are federal dollars designed to address the public health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a county news release, the proposal reflects community pandemic recovery priorities identified during a four-month engagement effort that took place earlier this year.
“Snohomish County communities asked us to make substantial investments to help working families, and with this proposed ARPA spending package, we’re delivering on their needs,”Somers said. “These programs will allow us to increase needed resources for communities across our county, from affordable and accessible behavioral health services, to high-quality child care, to jobs programs that support workers and employers. I’m grateful to all the community members who took time to share their ideas. By working together, we can create a better future for all who call Snohomish County home.”
The spending breakdown in the second $85 million ARPA allocation is as follows:
Housing, Homelessness and Behavioral Health
The spending plan includes nearly $29 million additional ARPA dollars to increase and preserve housing units and behavioral health services across Snohomish County. Estimated budgets and programming within this $29 million include at least $8 million for behavioral health and substance use treatment efforts, with a focus on increasing available services through the expansion or development of capital projects, and an estimated $2.5 million to expand public health services across the county targeted at behavioral health supports.
“We applaud Executive Somers’s targeted approach for the use of these funds. While the impacts of Covid-19 will be felt for years to come, these investments in our county will provide meaningful solutions for those hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Brian Smith, chief operating officer, Volunteers of America Western Washington.
Youth, Family and Senior Supports
The spending plan includes nearly $22 million additional ARPA dollars to support youth, families and seniors. Estimated budgets and programming within this $22 million allocation include approximately $12 million to increase the availability of high-quality child care across the county through the creation and expansion of child care facilities, efforts to stabilize and boost the child care workforce, and programs to support child care affordability for families, and approximately $8 million for youth programming and facilities that could include recreation and violence interruption, behavioral health supports and community-led efforts to address COVID-related learning loss.
“Access, quality, and affordability are the hallmarks of a healthy child development and care system,” said Elaine Larson, regional coordinator of quality child care, who heads Opportunity Council’s Lynnwood and Everett offices. “The Executive’s vision is spot on for what our field needs as we not only put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, but also level the playing field for working families in this county. I’m confident the area’s child care and early learning providers will use these funds to support the early learning workforce and expand child care resources that benefit both families and our business community.”
Economic and Workforce Development
The spending plan includes an additional $16 million in ARPA dollars to support economic and workforce development efforts. Estimated budgets and programming within this allocation include approximately $8 million to support workforce development efforts directed toward highly impacted sectors like social services, behavioral health, child care and manufacturing, as well as roughly $5 million to continue efforts to expand broadband access, which includes affordability, gap-filling and cybersecurity.
The spending plan also calls for approximately $10.5 million for emergency response efforts as well as staffing to address the law and justice case backlog and pandemic-necessitated adjustments in law and justice offices. Additional staffing is needed along with capital facilities upgrades to help ensure courts can accommodate remote trials more efficiently and effectively. Emergency response funding includes efforts to support firefighters and paramedics.
An additional $6.5 million is allocated toward the Snohomish County Human Services Department and the Office of Recovery & Resilience (ORR) to ensure the departments can distribute ARPA funds quickly, equitably and in compliance with U.S. Treasury requirements. All staffing allocations will be reevaluated at the end of each fiscal year to determine if unspent dollars can be reallocated into other community priorities.
The Snohomish County Council will consider Somers’ ARPA proposal as part of the 2023 budget process, and ORR will present the ARPA plan to the Council on Oct. 11. If approved, funding from this $85 million appropriation would then be available to use on Jan.1, 2023.
Information on the county’s recovery work can be found at www.snohomishcountywa.gov/recovery.