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Discussions continue on spending of $80M in federal funds for Richland County

Of the $80 million allocated to Richland County last year, $20 million has already been earmarked.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Discussions on how to spend millions in federal coronavirus relief funds continue in Richland County.

The money comes as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help states and local governments recover from the pandemic.

Of the $80 million allocated last year, $20 million has already been earmarked for things like safety and security, mental health, and employee stipends.

"Hazard pay for county employees, meaning individuals who were working during the pandemic," Council Chairman Overture Walker said.

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The federal government requires the funds to be focused on public health, lost revenue, premium pay for essential staff, and infrastructure needs.

With that in mind, a council subcommittee discussed in late February how the remaining $60 million could possibly be spent.

"Youth services, parks, and recreation, mortgage assistance, crime prevention, public safety, small businesses, mental health, homelessness, food insecurity, home repairs, affordable housing," Councilwoman Gretchen Barron said in the meeting.

Broadband, water, and senior assistance are also considerations.

The money, however, may not go far with projects like facility upgrades and infrastructure costing millions to address.

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"Potentially, the $80 million, for those of you who are familiar with the project you did for water, sewer in South East, you know that could be gone," County Administrator Leonardo Brown said. "Just want you to consider those general things when you think about the large pot and how you're allocating funds."

As discussions continue, so does the opportunity for community input.

Councilman Walker says those interested in weighing in should contact their councilmember.

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