Government

Officials waiting for more guidance on stimulus money

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Millions in federal stimulus money is coming to Crawfordsville and Montgomery County, but officials are still trying to figure out how it can be spent.

A combined $10.64 million has been allocated to the city and county through the American Rescue Plan Act. The first installment is expected in May, and communities can apply for additional funding streams through the law.

Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton, Montgomery County Commissioner John Frey and Montgomery County Councilman David Hunt addressed the funding during the kickoff of the Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s City/County Legislative Lunch Series Friday at Fusion 54.

“There’s so many unknowns,” Frey said. “[The stimulus] came with strings attached … and some very specific things it could be spent on, but when you dig in to even see what those specific things are, there’s still gaps in understanding on how we can utilize that.”

Elected leaders said they were waiting for more guidance on using the funds. The funds can cover public health costs and replace lost revenue, but the drop in income wasn’t as severe as some projections showed, officials said.

“It does not look, so far, as bad as … the doom and gloom outlook, but obviously, I think the way the pandemic’s going to play out revenue-wise is going to be a multi-year process,” Hunt said.

Officials say they need the community’s help determining how to spend the rest of the funding within the guidelines. Assistant Chamber director Casey Hockersmith said some of the funding should go toward expanding broadband.

Hockersmith said the limited availability of reliable internet just outside Crawfordsville is a red flag for people considering moving into the county.

“Some of them are changing their mind and I have fielded those specific phone calls from folks looking to relocate,” she said.

However the money is used, Barton raised concerns about how the government is distributing it. Like the CARES Act, this next round of funding will be allocated to the states instead of going straight to local cities and counties.

“Obviously, there’s an incentive there to make it a little more challenging for us to utilize all the funding,” Barton said. “My fear is that we will see some of that done again.”

Montgomery County reported three new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the grand total to 4,195, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. There have been 87 total deaths.

More than a third of local residents 16 and older have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to state data.

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