JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – County commissioners, along with the mayors of Caryville and LaFollette, attended a briefing Monday evening from representatives of the Tennessee Comptroller’s office on the American Rescue Plan – the federal program administered partly through the states to help alleviate some of the negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. WATCH the meeting HERE on demand.

Bryan Burklin, the assistant director for Local Government Audit, explained the program, the parameters for use of the money and deadlines for applying for or spending the aid. His program, squeezed in before the 6 pm commission meeting, left no opportunity for local officials to ask questions, but may have helped enlighten everyone on the program as a whole.

Of the $1.9 trillion in the national pot of money, Tennessee qualifies for $2.2 billion to be shared among the state’s counties and cities with another $2.2 billion earmarked for education through the ESSER 3.0 program. Those school funds are administered through the Department of Education.

All 95 counties in Tennessee must request ARP funds directly from the U.S. Treasury, while with the exception of some “entitlement cities,” 327 Tennessee cities must draw funds through the Tennessee Dept. of Finance. The state has not yet drawn down those funds, Burklin explained.

Half of the money for cities and counties is currently available, with the other half available one year from receipt of the first pay outs. All funds must be spent by Sept. 30, 2024. Among programs that qualify for the ARP funding are services to improve public health and safety, services that support “essential workers,” and infrastructure that support public health, which can include water projects, building upgrades that improve ventilation and other projects that might fit the broad category of public health and safety.

Burklin mentioned several things that would not meet requirements for use of the money, including applying the money to local reserve or “rainy day” funds. In summary, he told the local officials that the “American Rescue Plan money is intended to be spent to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of citizens.”

The following county commission meeting was, as Chairman Johnny Bruce pledged following the lengthy workshop last week, brief and limited to motions and votes with no debate or lengthy discussions. In fact, proclamations honoring three retiring county employees at the onset of the meeting took over half of the time of the entire meeting.

Honored for their years of public service were Jamie Wheeler, who after 34 years with the school system as a teacher and principal, is retiring from her position as principal at CCHS, Carole Jo Nelson, retiring from the Election Commission Office, and Ann Ayers-Colvin, who is retiring from her position as Administrator of Elections after 18 years as a county employee, more than 10 of those years as AOE. All three were honored with proclamations designating special recognition days on August 1, July 30 and August 6, respectively.

The commission then quickly dispensed with the business of approving reports, minutes and budget amendments, as well as a list of nine motions brought up by Ralph Davis involving expenditures and changes at the Sanitation Dept. Towe String Road center, including a new separate entrance for the animal shelter. All motions received unanimous approval. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 07/21/2021-6AM)