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Information Regarding Disbursement of Grant Funds Under the American Rescue Plan Act

Information from Barnstable County Commissioners’ Office

Disbursement of Grant Funds Under the American Rescue Plan Act

March 23, 2022 (BARNSTABLE, MA)In May 2021, the Barnstable County Board of Commissioners accepted a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury for the disbursement of grant funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in the amount of $41.37 million.  The Commissioners designated the County Administrator, Beth Albert, as the Grant Administrator and authorized her to manage the ARPA grant funds under an agreement between the County Commissioners and the federal government.

In addition to the County’s APRA grant funds, all fifteen towns on Cape Cod have received direct awards of APRA funds from the U.S. Treasury totaling over $26 million.

For the past several months, the County Commissioners have made a reasonable and collegial effort to include the Assembly of Delegates in its deliberations over the use of the County ARPA grant funds.  The Commissioners have expressed support for allocating funds to the towns and setting aside funds to support critical regional initiatives.  The Commissioners are mindful of the primary mission of our county government – which is to address the unique regional problems of Barnstable County while helping our towns.  Throughout the process, Assembly members have generally been supportive of the Commissioner’s overall direction for the administration of the ARPA grant funds.

Even though Barnstable County General Counsel and Special Counsel disagree with the Assembly’s interpretation of its authority concerning the acceptance and expenditures of ARPA funds, the Commissioners have agreed to support a role for the Assembly in the overall disbursement process.

While this has created delays in the disbursement of ARPA funds, the Commissioners have determined that a cooperative arrangement with the Assembly was just as important as an efficient and effective administration of the overall program.

Unfortunately, on 3/16/22 the Assembly completely rejected an ordinance submitted by the Board of Commissioners to start disbursing ARPA funds to the towns and to address regional priorities as outlined in the overall plan.

Instead, the Assembly proposed its own ordinance which seeks to simply divert all its current funding to the towns.  The Assembly ordinance provides no funding for the overall administration of the program or critical funding to address any of Cape Cod’s regional issues – such as aiding the Cape’s economic recovery, improving the region’s public health, or addressing groundwater contamination affecting our ponds, lakes, and streams and drinking water supplies.

Unfortunately adopting the language in the Assembly’s ordinance is inconsistent with the overall direction of the program – which is guided by extensive public and community involvement.  In addition to ignoring the public, the ordinance creates additional delays in the release of funds to the towns, and additional confusion among Cape residents, and potential sub-recipients.

To avoid further confusion and delay in the release of ARPA funds to the towns, the Board of Commissioners will move forward in the coming weeks, as it is permitted to do under state and federal law and under the terms of the grant, to open an online application portal for the towns to apply for the $10 million proposed by the Board and to establish an Advisory Committee to identify regional funding priorities.

Barnstable County has until 12/31/24 to decide upon use of the ARPA funds.  All funds must be expended by 12/31/26.

Questions should be directed to Sheila Lyons, Chair