Richland County, North Dakota, is slated to receive more than $3.1 million from the American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 relief.
Wilkin County, Minnesota, has an allocation of more than $1.2 million. The full American Rescue Plan, totaling $1.9 trillion, includes $350 billion for state, county and metropolitan cities.
Daily News reached out to auditors in both counties and the city of Wahpeton to learn more about the relief process. Guidance is ever-changing, Richland County Auditor Sandy Fossum said, so at the moment, funding has not been earmarked for any specific purpose.
“We’ve been in touch with the North Dakota Association of Counties,” Fossum said. “What they have urged us to do is go ahead and request the money, as well as file our reports. We have until the end of 2024 to have the money allocated.”
Richland County has gotten the first half of its American Rescue Plan allocation, Fossum said. The county is waiting on the U.S. Treasury to finalize its interim final rule, which will determine exactly what funding can be used for.
“We’re also working to determine losses of revenue (which occurred earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic),” Fossum said. “When that is finished, we expect to get more guidance from the Association of Counties.”
In the meantime, Richland County’s first allocation has been deposited and is collecting interest. The second allocation is expected in approximately 12 months. A similar situation is going on in Wilkin County.
“We don’t have any specific plans at this time,” County Auditor and Treasurer Janelle Krump said. “We received the first half of our payment and have put it in savings.”
Like in North Dakota, Wilkin County is also seeking input from an association of state counties. Associations provide much assistance, Krump said. The assistance also pays off on the city level.
“Cities are waiting for more information from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the North Dakota League of Cities,” Wahpeton Auditor and Finance Director Darcie Huwe said. “The money would be a great windfall for city capital improvement projects, but we do need more information.”
Earlier in July, Daily News reported on OMB abandoning its proposal to change the minimum qualifying populations for metropolitan statistical areas. Communities with populations under 50,000 individuals — such as Wahpeton and Breckenridge — are known as non-entitlement units.
“We’re watching anything to do with infrastructure funding,” Huwe said.
Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds were established for multiple reasons, the U.S. Treasury stated. They include “(replacing) lost revenue for eligible … governments” and “(supporting) immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses.”
Daily News will continue to follow this story.