American Rescue Plan to Help in Recovery

GTR Media Group photo
HONORING LINDA JOHNSTON: Tulsa County Commissioners and representatives, past and present, recently honored Linda Johnston for her 30-plus years of service in her position as Director with Tulsa County. Back row from left are Commissioners Karen Keith, Stan Sallee and Ron Peters and County Clerk Mike Willis. Front row are Sheriff Vic Regalado, former Commissioners John Smaligo and Bob Dick, and Mike Lapolla, Monia Whitmire, Linda Johnston, Julie Gustafson, Dr. Jerry Gutafson, and former Commissioners Randi Miller and Fred Perry.

On March 11, 2021, as one of his first acts, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA follows the CARES Act of 2020 which included federal funding to states and local governments to help America recover from the effects of the pandemic.
In addition to Tulsa County, every city in the county receives ARPA funding. The estimates of funding relief are $126,000,000 to Tulsa County, $88,000,000 to the City of Tulsa, $17,000,000 to Broken Arrow, and lesser amounts to the other cities in the county.
Because the recovery efforts will take time, the deadline for expending these funds is December of 2024. To make sure the funds will last that long, each local government will receive half of their amount in 2021 and the other half in 2022
As the vaccine is proven effective to suppress the spread of the virus and prevent new cases, the purposes of these funds is to focus on some of the issues in our community which heretofore had not been addressed or allowed under the CARES Act. Some of these would be transformational initiatives with long lasting benefits.
One of these issues is the need to expand access to broadband services to areas and agencies in the county. Some of these are county government facilities such as O’Brien, Chandler, and LaFortune parks which provide programs and educational opportunities. Other areas of the County could include nonprofit agencies and targeted areas in the County without access to broadband.
For the short term, possible support of the efforts by Tulsa International Airport to bring additional non-stop flights to destinations such as Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C. and Miami. Each of these flights were in the planning stages until the pandemic hit the airline industry particularly hard putting a halt to implementation.
There is also the area of workforce development which would address those portions of the labor force that need new training, education, and skills to reenter the workforce with new employment opportunities. Many of the previous jobs held by those currently unemployed will not be available or exist to return to.
During the pandemic, many small businesses struggled to stay alive because they lacked the essential fundamentals required to survive tough times. Many small business owners need training, education, technical assistance, and access to funding.
One of the fundamental differences between the CARES funding and the ARAP funding is the number of federal and state agencies which will receive funding that can be used for local needs. There are at least a dozen federal agencies which will have funding to support local needs, such as the Small Business Administration, HUD, FEMA, the Economic Development Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, CDC, and the Health and Human Services agencies.
Because the ARPA funding that is available is spread out across many agencies, the county has been assisting local businesses and nonprofits navigate the technical bureaucracy to help those in need connect with those that have available funding. This is particularly true for restaurants, hotels, bars, non-profits, and shuttered venues.
The ARPA funding is an opportunity for the county to invest where the need to recover, rebound, and rebuild is the greatest in all areas of the county from the effects of the pandemic.