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City of Boise weighs options for incoming American Rescue Plan funds

Soon, cities across Idaho will see millions of dollars in federal aid. The City of Boise is hard at work determining how aid can be best used.

BOISE, Idaho — Millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan will soon flow through Idaho cities in an effort to help municipalities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as invest in the future. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean explained to The 208 what the city's mindset is for how to best use the funds as final guidance on how it can be spent is released.

“Our goal is to ensure that we are taking advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity of investment. It’s a recovery action but we can both get money into the community quickly and make longer-term high impact investments that will meet foundational needs for long-term economic opportunity and resilient community,” McLean said.

The City of Boise is set to receive about $36 million to help with a variety of community needs brought on by the pandemic. A portion of the funds will come this year, with another portion arriving next year. 

Kathy Griesmyer, the City of Boise Government Affairs Director, explained to KTVB how the new funds are different from money allotted from CARES Act.

“We are receiving our money directly from the federal government as opposed to last year under the CARES Act model where the whole government submitted reimbursement claims to the state and CFAC committee setup through Gov. Little’s office,” Griesmyer said.

Cities like Boise will also have extended time to make decisions on where the funds will go.

“We have until 2024 to obligate our funds and until 2026 to spend that money. Any unspent or unobligated funds will be turned back to the federal government,” Griesmyer said.

Griesmyer said the money will go toward three main buckets. Of course, COVID-19 recovery efforts is one. The other two areas create opportunities for community investment.

“We are able to make investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure which is a new allowance in this new relief package. What’s unique about this American Rescue Plan is also the ability to use some of this money to offset reductions in revenue at the city level. That was something that local governments had been really active in lobbying for with this new round of relief funding and so this is something we are really excited to take a part of,” Griesmyer said.

Final guidance from the federal government is expected sometime in July.

“That does not mean we are waiting until July or August for that final rule and we’ve been really active in trying to engage with the public regarding what these needs are. The mayor mentioned, we met with the economic recovery task force this morning, they provided recommendations from what they see are necessary gaps to fill in workforce development and the cities recovery,” Griesmyer said.

Boise is set to receive about $36 million, Meridian and Caldwell are set for more than $12 million, Nampa will see close to $20 million. Ada County is marked for more than $93 million, and Canyon County is set to receive close to $45 million.

Griesmyer said Treasure Valley leaders are working together on how funds can be best spent.

“There is a lot of interest, from the conversations we’ve had with other cities in the county, that there is a definite interest in kind of pooling resources together and seeing how we can get sort of the best bang for our buck in terms of the money coming into our region and what we can use it for,” Griesmyer said.

Again, final details are expected to be worked out this summer at the federal level. From there, cities can start getting allocations for use. Mayor McLean said Boise intends on using all available funds to promote recovery at all levels in the city, as well as invest in the future.

“As a city, we are grateful for the opportunity that we have to make direct investments into our community through the American Rescue Plan, and yes, we intend to leverage those resources as fully as possible to the benefit of our residents, our businesses who at the end of the day really are residents, and the community at large,” McLean said.

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