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County Administrator's Office
For Immediate Release

Sonoma County approves initial ARPA allocations for county and community

Santa Rosa,CA | December 15, 2021

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors this week began the process of approving the allocation of $96 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, grounding their decisions in community recommendations that resulted from engagement with the ARPA Equity Work Group, community town hall meetings, and focus groups. By using public health data and indices like the Healthy Places Index, and the Human Development Index, and by centering the experiences of community members disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the County has deepened its understanding of historic inequities and will focus on investment strategies to address them to achieve a more equitable recovery. 

ARPA funding was approved for ongoing COVID response and monitoring, creation of a new Public Health Lab/Morgue, essential worker pay for County employees, and County investments aimed at improving cultural responsiveness. Additionally, funds were dedicated to a Rapid Economic Assistance program, housing and homelessness initiatives, development of a broadband system for rural areas, and community investment awards. 

The first allocations approved Tuesday included $8 million toward construction of a new public health lab and morgue to replace the current facility. Supervisors also approved roughly $8 million in essential worker pay for current County employees who worked during the pandemic and three targeted investments specifically designed to improve the County’s capacity for cultural responsiveness. These included investments in improving geographic mapping information to allow staff to more easily understand demographic characteristics across the County ($450,000); the second is an investment in a consultant to develop a Community Engagement strategy to help guide department efforts with communities traditionally underserved and communities of color ($400,000). Finally, a Language Access proposal ($310,000) will engage a consultant to evaluate existing language access provisions, assess language needs, and recommend and implement a county-wide Language Access Policy.

A second set of allocations was approved to develop and launch a Rapid Economic Assistance program at $9 million to address the impacts of the pandemic on low-income residents, $4 million to address homelessness, and $3 million to create a broadband governance organization and to set-aside money for when funds are needed to match state and federal grants that are expected in the near future for county-wide broadband development. The specific details of the Rapid Economic Assistance program will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in early 2022. In making its allocation decisions on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors was informed by town halls and recommendations from the ARPA Equity Work Group, which was appointed in September and has been meeting since October. 

“With these ARPA investments, we have the opportunity in Sonoma County to establish generational changes to improve the lives of those most impacted by the pandemic,” said Lynda Hopkins, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “We appreciate the diligent and thorough work by the ARPA Equity Work Group that went into the recommendations that our Board wholeheartedly approved.”

The funds come from the total of $96 million allocated to the county through the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March. The board also approved $28.7 million to support ongoing COVID-19 response and monitoring efforts as well as the ARPA implementation plan.

According to ARPA, which was signed into law in March, the funding objectives are to: support urgent COVID-19 response efforts; replace lost revenue for eligible local governments to support vital public services and help retain jobs; support immediate economic stabilization for households and business; and address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic. The federal government allocated $96 million directly to the County of Sonoma and funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and fully expended by Dec. 31, 2026.

Community Investment Buckets were identified through community engagement efforts including virtual town halls, community surveys, and feedback from the ARPA Equity Work Group. Based on the feedback and ideas from these sources, the major categories for community investment awards are as follows. The funding level also was based on the level of need expressed through the community engagement process: 

  • Negative Economic Impacts on Individuals and Households ($20.5 million)
  • Disparities in Public Health Outcomes ($13.6 million)

The board agreed that the fund allocations could be re-allocated based on the qualifying proposals received in each category. These categories included specific needs such as mental health services, immediate direct household assistance, child care, broadband, training-and-development, and a universal basic income pilot. 

The above funding allocations will be awarded to a mix of community organizations and county departments based on a solicitation process. The ARPA team will hold community workshops starting in January so they can understand and ask questions about the funding requirements to apply for community investment awards. The workshops will be held on Zoom and the recordings will be available on the ARPA website. 

The timeline, evaluation, selection and award process for the ARPA community investment funds are as follows:

  • January 2022 – Community workshops about the application process and opportunities to create cross-agency partnerships for joint funding applications.
  • January/February 2022 – ARPA solicitation with proposed deadline six to eight weeks after the release.
  • March/April 2022 – Review committee will review applications and make recommendations for funding based on set criteria.
  • May/June 2022 – Recommended funding agreements to the board for approval and provide technical assistance to proposers on performance measures and federal funding requirements.
  • July 2022 – June 2024 – Funds disbursed through the community and recipients submit quarterly performance reports and participate in results-based accountability conversations with County staff.

For additional information and to learn about the community workshops, visit the ARPA webpage at https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CAO/ARPA/. You can also view the board meeting from December 14, 2021 at https://sonoma-county.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.

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