Angelina County Commissioners Discuss Eligible Uses of American Rescue Plan Act Funding

LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) — In the summer of 2021, Angelina County received half of the total $16.8 million it was awarded under the American Rescue Plan Act. This money is sitting still as the county determines how to use it in an eligible manner.

At a special meeting Tuesday, professional grants consultant Ray Vann explained to Angelina County commissioners the eligible ways the county can spend the $16.8 million. Eligible means include replacing lost public sector revenue, supporting the COVID-19 economic and public health response, paying a bonus to eligible essential workers, and/or investing in sewers and infrastructure to broadband. Angelina County Judge Don Lymbery said they are exploring their options.

“Nothing is set in stone. We are in the first round of talks to try to decide how to use this large amount of money appropriately. What we are looking at, we have a lot of needs in Angelina County But one of the things the Court of Commissioners is going to be so involved in is what is the greatest use of that money that will benefit the greatest number of people,” Lymbery said.

Judge Lymbery said one possibility might be to expand the Angelina County Jail for specific purposes.

“It can eventually be used, we believe, for mental health resources and the COVID isolation wing in the Angelina County Jail,” Lymbery said.

Lymbery said they are also mandated by the state to keep hard copies of all records for long periods of time, some as long as 75 years.

“Now we have these files in the old prison, but the temperature is not controlled, they are not protected. They are not really supported as they should be. And that’s something we’re going to have to deal with,” Lymbery said.

Funds must be committed by December 31, 2024 and all funds must be expended by December 31, 2026.

“If they were to spend it ineligiblely, they would have to pay it back. If they don’t spend it, they’ll have to pay it back at the end of the program,” Vann said.

The money can be distributed in as many eligible categories as the county deems necessary.

“It’s going to be good for the county no matter how it’s used. Whether it’s for individual water systems, or adding to the jail, or…whatever we do, whether it’s permanent temperature-controlled storage…it will benefit the county,” Lymbery said.

The second half of the money will come next year. Judge Lymbery hopes they will come to a decision on what they plan to do with the money in the next six to eight months.

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