FLORENCE — Pinal County should receive nearly $45 million in approximately two months, its first payment in the recent COVID-19 stimulus package known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
The U.S. Treasury Department should be providing guidance on how the money can be spent shortly before it arrives, Vanessa Fielder with the County Supervisors Association told the Pinal County Board of Supervisors Wednesday.
The biggest portion of the nearly $1.9 trillion bill is stimulus payments to individuals totaling $410 billion, followed by $362 billion in state and local government aid. The state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates Arizona will receive almost $25 billion over the next several years, Fielder said.
Board Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, asked about reports that local governments can’t use the funding to decrease taxes. The board will soon be discussing a new fiscal year budget that may include a property tax rate decrease for a fourth straight year.
Fielder said this prohibition appears to primarily apply to states. “That provision does not exist in the county portion of the bill, or the city and town portion.” But if the county were to cut taxes and attempt to use the funds for general government, the county would need to show it’s covering a revenue loss resulting from the pandemic.
Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, asked how the country is paying for the American Rescue Plan — printing money, borrowing or raising taxes? Fielder replied the bill didn’t include specific provisions to offset the spending. “The $1.9 trillion is the impact on the debt over 10 years,” she said.
Arizona schools will also receive a big share, with $2.6 billion estimated for district and charter schools to help with learning loss, summer school and other needs. There’s more than $680 million for Arizona community colleges and universities, including emergency financial aid grants for students. The new law also provides funding for health, business aid, human services, housing and transportation, Fielder said.
There should be about $1.4 billion for Arizona’s counties, which should receive their first payments in May. Pinal County’s first payment is expected to be nearly $45 million, followed by a second payment a year from now, for a total of $89,755,077, Fielder said.
“The funds will have record-keeping requirements, reporting and audit requirements which will all be created by the (U.S.) Treasury Department.” The Treasury Department will provide regulations and guidance on how the funds are to be used. “We do expect that guidance to come out sometime prior to the first round of funds being released in May.”
In other business Wednesday, Pinal County Manager Leo Lew reported that on Friday, the county opened up COVID-19 vaccines to residents as young as age 18. Pinal County is also working with its partners and Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens to reach seniors who may need help getting the vaccine. The county now has 52 active community partners, including 20 retail pharmacies, qualified to administer vaccines, Lew said.
“We are still receiving large amounts of Moderna and smaller amounts of Janssen, which is the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine.” As of March 23, 125,496 people had been vaccinated in Pinal, including 81,000 who’ve had their first dose.
The board also thanked several employees marking years of service anniversaries with Pinal County: Gilbert Tarango, highway maintenance foreman, 30 years; Tyrone S. Montgomery, deputy sheriff, 25 years; and Stephen F. McCarville, Superior Court presiding judge, Janell L. Gillette, Juvenile Court Services financial tech, and Stephanie R. Swafford, detention lieutenant, 20 years.