Warren County Supervisors discuss appropriation of American Rescue Plan funds

Published 4:15 pm Friday, August 13, 2021

The Warren County Board of Supervisors spent more than an hour of its Monday working session discussing how the county’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds would be spent.

County administrator Loretta Brantley opened the meeting by explaining the importance of financial planning for the federal funds.

“We’re going to have $8.8 million,” Brantley said. “So we’ve got to have a plan.”

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Brantley first presented a proposal for more than $300,000 in improvements to the Warren County Health Department building, including the purchase of a generator for $94,000, $15,000 in general maintenance, approximately $100,000 for a new roof, $12,000 for electrical work and $20,000 worth of plumbing improvements and repairs.

“The purpose for (these improvements) is that it’s a vaccination site,” board president Dr. Jeff Holland said of the health department building.

District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson said she would like to see some of the funds directed toward youth enrichment programs, to help remedy learning loss and mental and physical health impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Using the funds in this manner, Jackson said, is within the capacity of the ARP.

“A good deal of it, a lot of the language talks about community and mental health and things like that,” Jackson said. “I think this is a good opportunity to… I don’t want to use the term ‘double down’ on youth services, because we’re not investing anything into youth services as it stands.

“I would encourage, even as little as $75,000 would go a long way in establishing organizations for youth services.”

Jackson also said the funds could be used to fund childcare initiatives and proposed a renewed effort for a paid student internship through Warren County.

There is also an opportunity for the county to partner with the city of Vicksburg to use ARP funds for a comprehensive housing plan, she said, adding that each district in Warren County needs to benefit from the funds equally.

“We cannot extract full value out of economic development unless we have more houses,” Jackson said, adding that she and other supervisors had discussed forming a coalition with county and city leaders to address housing in Warren County.

Holland presented the idea of supporting small businesses with a portion of the funds.

“There’s a small business emphasis in (the ARP) that I don’t know if Trump would have ever put into it, but the Biden administration did,” Holland said. “If you read into it, we could actually infuse money into several sectors of small business. We could pick out tourism and make investments in tourism if we chose to.”

District 1 Supervisor Ed Herring presented the idea of using some of the funds to supplement local programs for those with disabilities and at-risk youth. Herring said he’s become involved with Special Olympics in recent years, and sees a need there.

“We really have a rash of teenage young, 20-something Black males who are getting themselves in trouble, because others in the community are taking advantage of them,” Herring said. “They’ve got hearts of gold and all they want to do is be someone’s friend. All too often, I can mentor. … I can do anything, and they just want to fit in, and they do something wrong.

“They get into trouble where I can’t get them out of it. The director of Special Olympics can’t get them out of it,” he said. “There’s a dire need, more of a dire need than a person who looks like me can realize.”

Herring went on to say that any activity in which the community can get children involved can keep them out of trouble, from basketball to badminton.

The board will further discuss American Rescue Plan funds at its next working session.