ITHACA, N.Y. – Tompkins County Legislature met on June 30 to discuss the future of how the nearly $20 million American Rescue Plan (ARP) will work in aiding the county’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In an over three-hour meeting, all legislators with some state guests discussed the county’s current financial state and what’s in store for these newly available funds. 

The meeting, live-streamed on Youtube, opened with statements from Ryan Gregoire, the Legislative Director of New York State Association of Counties. Gregoire presented details on how other counties are using their ARP funds, guidelines of how the ARP must be used and deadlines for decisions. 

The final decision date for when all funds from ARP must be allocated is December 31, 2024, but all of the funding does not need to be spent until December of 2026. Gregoire stated that funding can go to a broad variety of things, but must be within four categories: aiding the negative effects of COVID-19 in local communities, support essential workers, adding provisions to government services that lost revenue due to the pandemic, or making investments in water, sewage or broadband infrastructure. According to Gregoire, most counties are using their funding for the third and fourth options listed. 

Legislator and Budget Capital and Personnel Committee Chair Deborah Dawson followed Gregoire’s presentation with some questions on what qualifies those who were disproportionately affected by COVID and how this funding could potentially relate to housing. 

Tompkins County Finance Director Rick Snyder, then went on to update the group on fund balances and where the county is at with sales tax revenue figures, followed by Amie Hendrix, the Deputy County Administrator, and her calculations on what revenue loss for the last year may have looked like. Lisa Holmes, interim County Administrator, then presented information on existing capital plans including the “Reimagining Public Safety” budget impacts. Holmes included a graph of possible ways ARP funding could be used with these capital programs. 

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) urged the use of these funds to go toward local municipalities, and Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (D-Ithaca) asked those who had ideas to come forward with a roster.

The meeting concluded with a presentation from Communications Director Dominick Recckio where some of the results of the survey sent out to the community were presented. 

The survey, which was due on June 28, was sent out via the website Surveymonkey and asked those participating how ARP funding should be spent concerning who was the most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 2000 Tompkins County residents responded with their input. The top answers to the survey were those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and essential workers. Among the most desired uses for ARP funds, 528 people ranked “responding to the needs of households that suffered from economic losses as a result of COVID-19” as their top priority. Trailing that, 456 people ranked “addressing public health, mental health, and early and special education services needs” as their top priority. 

A decision was not reached and another meeting on how the American Rescue Plan funds should be allocated is on the calendar for July 19 at 5:30 p.m. 

Desiree Holz

Desiree Holz is an intern at the Ithaca Voice and a rising-junior journalism student at Ithaca College. Feel free to email her with tips!