In this second installment, we’ll be updating our reporting on Benton County and presenting data on Franklin County ARPA funds usage.

As a reminder from the last article, The American Recovery Plan Act, or ARPA, was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. The bill provided $1.9 Trillion in economic relief to those impacted by COVID-19, including $350 Million to state, local, and Tribal governments across the country as part of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program. The Department of the Treasury states that one of the objectives of this program is to “fight the pandemic and support families and businesses struggling with its public health and economic impacts.”

At the time of publication, Benton County has been granted $41,625,160, and Franklin County has been granted $18,467,721. These funds must be allocated by 2024, and spent by 2026. Both counties have elected to take advantage of a provision in the SLFRF program that allows them to allocate $10,000,000 of their granted funds to replace lost public sector revenue. This option is considered a standard allowance, so the counties do not have to provide a breakdown of how these funds will be used. For the remaining funds, we will be providing in-depth breakdowns of how the two counties plan to use their allotted funds as this information becomes available to us.

Below is an update on the three major Benton County Projects reported on by Tumbleweird in the previous issue.

Regional Behavioral Health Recovery Center: $5,000,000

On Friday October 28, Benton County Commissioners approved the purchase of the building previously used as the Kennewick General Hospital for $1.6 million. According to Commissioner Delvin, “Closing this deal I think has a lot of opportunities for the county in the future to provide services that maybe we haven’t had the opportunity or the facility or anything to provide to the public.” While the building is structurally sound, the $5,000,000 of ARPA funds will be used to help upgrade and remodel the facility, including improvements to heating and cooling, electrical, and mechanical systems.

Juvenile Justice Center Remodel: $10,000,000

On October 27, 2022, Tumbleweird acquired a project summary for the Juvenile Justice Center Remodel. The description states: “This project would remodel the existing 66,000 square foot facility. This includes updating aging systems that are at or beyond end of line, electrical, security, HVAC, and plumbing. The campus would also acquire the use of the 9,000 square foot Annex for their use. This project would potentially remodel the Annex as well as build a connector between the two buildings.” The project summary also addresses the need for the renovations: “The Juvenile Justice Facility was built in the late ‘70s and was expanded in 1996. Only minor repairs were completed after the ’96 expansion. The property is dated and no longer fits the needs of the organization. Systems are in varying state of failure and are in need of replacement.”

ARPA funds will account for nearly half of the estimated $21,000,000 needed for the renovation, with a projected $2.5 million to be utilized in 2023 and the rest in 2024. ARPA funds will also go towards consultant fees and construction/service costs.

Small Business Assistance Grants – $3,420,000:

Applications for the first round of grants from Benton County’s Business Resource Initiative closed on October 31. The second round of grant applications will run from February 1 – February 28 of 2023, and the third round will run from June 1 – June 30. The Chamber of Commerce is currently processing round one applications and should have data available in January 2023.

The following infographic is a visualization of data pulled from a Tri-City Herald Article updated on October 3, 2022. While much of the already allocated money has been spent on operational costs related to mitigating and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a couple of proposed projects that may have a significant impact on our community.

Franklin County pending ARPA funds spending

Circle graph showing Franklin County's pending ARPA funds spending
*Miscellaneous: Sheriff Biohazard Supplies - $351; Assessor Remodel New Door - $4,816; Assessor’s Office Electrical - $1,108; Treasurer’s Office Mail. Data retrieved 10/11 & 27/2022

Two of the most significant pending projects are:

  • Franklin County Public Safety Building HVAC Improvements– $2,111,396.01
  • The HAPO Center HVAC, lighting, energy improvements: $ 6,595,825.06

We have a number of active records requests pending with Franklin County, but have not yet received all the data.

Tumbleweird is committed to keeping our readers informed about how our local governments are using COVID relief funds to benefit our communities, and we will continue to report on updates regarding how these dollars are used in subsequent issues.

This research was made possible by support from Group Health Foundation.