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Idaho cities decline federal coronavirus reduction cash | Native

BOISE — Sixteen Idaho cities have rejected a mixed $700,000 in federal coronavirus rescue cash, and one metropolis that accepted $550,000 might need to return it if it doesn’t approve spending it.

It’s a small a part of the $5.74 billion Idaho acquired within the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden in 2021. However it may be a major quantity for some Idaho cities.

Many elected officers on the 16 small cities are volunteers or obtain token funds. Some officers mentioned they’ve been confused about allowed makes use of for the cash or strings hooked up. Others mentioned the price of administering and monitoring the cash outweighs the profit. Some didn’t seem to have the workers or experience to judge federal pointers for utilizing the cash. One mayor mentioned the town declined as a result of they didn’t wish to declare a well being emergency and impose a masks mandate, neither of which was required.

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Steering from the federal authorities got here in late, however it permits cities that obtain lower than $10 million to contemplate the reduction cash as misplaced income. Meaning it may be used simply as the town would spend income it acquired as a part of its basic operations.

Most of Idaho’s roughly 200 cities have accepted the cash, a complete of about $232 million. Idaho’s 9 largest cities acquired a mixed $124 million immediately from the U.S. Treasury, with Boise topping that checklist at $37 million.

The remaining smaller cities acquired a mixed $108 million distributed by the state. However the 16 cities both rejected the cash or didn’t reply to letters, emails or telephone calls from state officers.

Of the 16 cities that haven’t taken the cash, the south-central Idaho metropolis of Hansen with a inhabitants of about 1,400 is leaving essentially the most on the desk at about $276,000. However Mayor Joe Ratto mentioned he desires to offer it one other look now that it’s clear the cash might be used for infrastructure initiatives. Town has an annual funds of about $1 million, he mentioned.

“We may nonetheless use it as a result of we’ve nonetheless obtained to do upgrades,” he mentioned. “We are able to improve water. We are able to improve sewer. I imagine we are able to improve playgrounds. All three of these issues we’re engaged on now to improve. We’re only a small city attempting to make issues work.”

Alex Adams, Idaho Division of Monetary Administration administrator, mentioned the $700,000 is within the state treasury, and the state has requested U.S. Treasury officers the way to return it. It’s not clear if cities that declined their share may nonetheless get it in the event that they modified their minds.

The tiny metropolis of Hope on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho turned down about $21,000. The city has about 100 residents.

“All of the pink tape, and we’re a small city,” Mayor Bob Breen mentioned. “The added price of simply monitoring when the cash is handed out. It takes hours and hours of time. These are actual {dollars} being paid for that.”

The northern Idaho city of Wardner, inhabitants 250, declined $38,000.

“My understanding was you needed to declare a masks mandate and a COVID emergency,” Mayor Joe Guardipee mentioned. “We’re a small group, and we didn’t really feel that was crucial.”

Guardipee mentioned it wasn’t a political choice, and the town accepted a $68,000 grant from the state to enhance broadband that got here from federal coronavirus reduction funds.

Spirit Lake within the Idaho Panhandle accepted about $545,000, however the metropolis council has declined to spend it. Mayor Jeremy Cowperthwaite mentioned outsiders who don’t stay within the space present up at metropolis council conferences to argue towards utilizing the federal cash that Cowperthwaite hopes to make use of on badly wanted water and sewer initiatives.

“As mayor, I would like to just accept the cash and use it wherever Spirit Lake wants to make use of it,” he mentioned. “It could be the fiscally accountable means to make use of it, for my part.”

Town has an annual funds of about $6.75 million. It wants a brand new properly to fulfill the demand for water and two extra to fulfill anticipated development. It additionally wants to purchase land to develop its sewage therapy capability.

Island Park, a metropolis of about 300 in japanese Idaho’s trip space not removed from Yellowstone Nationwide Park, declined about $57,000,

“We had the lawyer look over issues, and there was nothing we may use it for,” mentioned Metropolis Clerk Reeca Marotz.

She mentioned the town has no public works division as a result of Fremont County takes care of the sewer and all of the water comes from non-public wells.

Different cities that declined the reduction cash are Acequia ($28,608), Clayton ($1,721), Drummond ($3,442), Hamer ($22,370), Huetter ($24,091), Irwin ($53,129), Onaway ($40,438), Parker ($62,593), Placerville ($12,260), Reubens ($13,766), Swan Valley ($52,699) and Heat River ($645).

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