During a Jefferson County Commission meeting Sept. 12, Jefferson Local Development Corporation Project Officer Leah Lewis, who administers American Rescue Plan Act funds, shared updates on the community’s “ARPA journey,” sharing what applications she’s receiving and what applications she hopes to see, as she believes there are several businesses in the county that qualify but haven’t yet reached out.
As of Sept. 20, Lewis said around 50 applications have come in, and approximately $1,052,947.41 has been expended.
At this time, Lewis said the ARPA program is currently accepting applications for Category 1 or Category 4, meaning ARPA funds are available for public health services (Category 1A) and for small businesses and nonprofits that aid in impacted industries, such as tourism, travel and hospitality (Category 1B). Category 4 grants include broadband, water and sewer, planning and engineering, outdoor spaces and health and wellness.
“Anything drinking-water related qualifies,” Lewis said at the Sept. 12 meeting, “but storm water and sewer items are a little more specific. Certain culverts are eligible, and some aren’t. A lot of these rules have been clarified in the final review.”
It’s important, Lewis said, for those interested in applying to do so sooner rather than later.
“As bigger projects come to fruition they may eat up a majority of the funds,” she told The Monitor.
Lewis reminds those interested in applying that funds need to be obligated by the end of 2024 and expended by 2026.
Applying for these grants is not a strenuous process, Lewis said, and it’s tremendously advantageous.
“Any business that ran during the pandemic should apply, especially ones that had actual closures or new cleaning procedures,” she told The Monitor. “Reach out to me. I can help you with the application.”
One question Lewis said she gets a lot is whether or not ARPA funds can be used to tear down or buy buildings.
“Yes,” she said in the meeting. “You can use capital expenditures to buy investment properties, facilities or equipment – especially for public health buildings and workforce housing. You just have to follow the capital expenditures section of ARPA. You can also improve, demolish or green up your space. Small business, rehabilitation of commercial property, storefront improvements and facade improvements all qualify.”
Lewis said she’s had several individuals ask her about how to apply for grants to improve the look of their business.
“Mostly it boils down to if they were open and going prior – and during – COVID, then, yes, they can,” she said.
Lewis said she’d really like to hear more from small businesses. As of Sept. 19, only 14 small businesses in Jefferson County had applied for ARPA funds, and all but one were approved. The Boulder Monitor’s parent company, Response Media LLC, applied for and received a grant.
Regarding nonprofits, Lewis said groups not registered as 501c3 should not be discouraged to apply.
“I’m just asking these groups to have a sponsor that is 501c3, for example, Boulder Youth Baseball put an application together with the City of Boulder for fencing,” she told The Monitor. “A Memorandum Of Understanding just needs to be created between the two groups to make this work.”
Lewis said she’d also like to hear more from other groups that host outdoor spaces involving health and wellness while Category 4 still has the funds available.
“I’d love to see more groups work together on this,” she told The Monitor. “[JHS] and the local pickle ball group have approached me about their tennis courts, for example, and Whitehall has approached me about their swimming pool, but there are others that would benefit from this, and I’d love to hear from them.”
Over the past four months Lewis said a lot of ARPA funds have been allocated, and what’s left over is mostly for larger projects, ones that take a lot of thought and planning.
“This could include either a new building or an addition to the public health department,” Lewis said at the meeting. “There’s also quite a bit of money available in the social and economic services and development category. I’m still reaching out to assisted living facilities in the area about this. I’ve been trying to get to all of them.”
Although there are ARPA funds still available in some categories, categories no longer served by ARPA include governmental revenue recovery. Projects involving roads and bridges are also off the table.
Lately Lewis said she’s been encouraged by the amount of applications she’s received, especially agricultural producers, as Jefferson County has paid out almost 20 grants for $5,000 per food commodity producer. At this rate, Lewis said these food security related grants may be capped at 30. To qualify for the grant, the business or individual must employ less than 5 people, have ownership (or a long-term lease) of agricultural land and/or livestock, and have food commodity sales receipts from 2020 for a minimum of $2,500 dollars.
Those interested in learning more about ARPA funds can contact Leah Lewis at email@example.com.