CASA GRANDE — Pinal County will receive more than $90 million from the pandemic aid package, while cities like Casa Grande and Maricopa will get additional direct payments of nearly $10 million.
The disbursements are part of around $16.1 billion headed to Arizona in the bill passed by Congress Wednesday that includes billions of dollars for local governments, schools, health care and businesses.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which won approval in the U.S. House and Senate along party lines — with Democrats supporting and Republicans all opposing — sends the largest chunk of that relief money to state and local governments. President Joe Biden signed the bill Thursday night.
Legislative budget analysts said state government will receive $4.8 billion for responding to COVID-19 or its negative economic effects. It can be used to make up for lost tax revenues — the state has actually seen little loss in tax collections — pay essential workers a premium of up to $25,000 or fund infrastructure projects, including expanding access to broadband. That money is barred from being used to reduce taxes, either directly or indirectly.
Local governments will also receive $2.6 billion. An analysis last month from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform said that Arizona counties will get a total of $1.4 billion in direct payments, with $876 million of that going to Maricopa County.
Cities like Casa Grande and Maricopa with at least 50,000 residents will get direct payments from the federal government, while money for smaller Pinal County cities will go to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office for redistribution based on population.
There are 17 cities in Arizona that qualify for roughly $1.1 billion in direct payments.
Here is the breakdown of what Pinal County cities and towns are estimated to receive based on population either from the federal government or Ducey's office:
- Casa Grande - $10,011,655
- Maricopa - $9,243,409
- Queen Creek (Pinal and Maricopa counties) - $7,853,682
- Apache Junction - $7,712,511
- Florence - $4,881,689
- Eloy - $3,583,059
- Coolidge - $2,400,840
- Superior - $580,392
- Kearny - $396,928
- Mammoth - $304,886.
Exactly how much money smaller communities will receive is unclear, as the aid package restricts payments that would account for more than 75% of the city or town’s budget. However, the Committee on Oversight and Reform estimated that small Arizona cities would get roughly $202 million.
Pinal County's overall share would be $90,448,515.
Casa Grande City Manager Larry Rains said the city just received notice of its funding allocation, so the mayor and City Council haven't had time to consider how to use the money.
"Most likely, the priority use will be considered with the FY22 annual budget process, as cities cannot expend funding without budget authority," Rains said in an email. "Mayor and City Council will most likely be presented the information at the April 5, 2021, regular Council meeting."
Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said it is also premature for his city to start planning how to spend its share.
"It's our understanding that we may get whatever amount is coming to us over a two-payment installment and we will also have to budget for that capacity in our next fiscal year's budget in order to utilize it." Price said in an email to PinalCentral. "Furthermore, we need to make sure we understand all of the ins and outs of the new congressional law so that we use that money in the appropriate fashion and not violate anything that isn’t allowable."
Price did say he's sure the city will find a "very appropriate use" for its share.
Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema took credit for "shaping" the legislation to include direct coronavirus relief to Arizona cities, towns, counties and tribal communities. She said in a press release she worked "with Arizona mayors and county leaders to ensure Arizona communities have direct budget support and the flexibility to make local decisions about how to spend it."
Her press release included quotes from Pinal County mayors praising her efforts.
“First of all, it is hard to find anyone, especially a Legislator/Senator that puts her money where her mouth is and is truly bipartisan. Senator Sinema’s work on a relief package that boosts vaccinations, supports employers, extends unemployment insurance and strengthens schools, broadband access and supports small cities and towns ... is right on the money and exactly what we need," Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland said in the release. "Additionally, the hardest hit area in my community is our restaurants and small businesses; her bipartisan Restaurant Rescue Plan and expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit will be a life saver.”
“Senator Sinema is a tireless and effective leader, doing all she can to represent Arizona — throughout the pandemic she has kept the needs of every Arizonan at the forefront. Her support of the American Rescue Plan will mean that residents of Superior will have access to additional relief funds. Our local restaurants and small businesses are in need of the relief this legislation will provide. This pandemic quickly showed the inequities of health care and internet access for rural Arizona, I am relieved to see there will be substantial amounts of funding to improve these inequities,” said Superior Mayor Mila Besich.
“We are incredibly grateful for Senator Sinema’s support for additional state and local government funding. This new influx of federal funding coming to the city of Maricopa will be used for a variety of priorities that will ensure that our city can continue to grow despite the effects of this global pandemic,” said Price.
Arizona schools will receive $3.2 billion in all. School districts and charter schools will get more than $2.3 billion. Each district or charter is required to reserve at least 20% of the money they receive to help students who fell behind during the pandemic, a total of $465 million. And another $129 million will go to the Arizona Department of Education for learning loss.
Private schools will also be eligible to receive funding. There is $55 million set aside for them, which Ducey will distribute.
And public schools and libraries will receive $143 million to purchase internet-connected devices, internet service and equipment.
Higher education institutions will get $792 million, of which an estimated $363 million will go to the state’s three public universities. Public and nonprofit colleges and universities are required to spend at least 50% of the money on student grants, while for-profit institutions have to spend 100% on student grants.
Arizona will also receive $1.7 billion for health care, more than half of which — about $960 million — will be for COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and mitigation. Another $150 million will go toward vaccine grants. And $153 million is directed to public health agencies for recruiting, hiring and training workers.
Community health centers will also receive $152 million directly from the federal government, while rural health care providers will be eligible for $170 million to cover pandemic expenses and lost revenue.
The pandemic aid package provides financial relief to child care providers — money that was excluded from previous relief measures. Arizona child care companies will receive $480 million to cover expenses.
Homeowners will also be eligible for a portion of the $199 million coming to Arizona for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, which can be used for mortgage and utilities payments. And $100 million each are dedicated to rental assistance and emergency housing vouchers for the homeless and those escaping domestic violence.
Arizona businesses will see $1.2 billion in aid coming to the state. An estimated $500 million will be provided to restaurants to cover the difference between 2019 and 2020 revenues; restaurant companies can receive up to $10 million in grants and no more than $5 million per location.
Another $200 million will be used to support small business financing, while $145 million expands eligibility to the Paycheck Protection Program to nonprofits (except for 501(c)(4) nonprofits, commonly referred to as “dark money” organizations because they can spend anonymously in political campaigns), internet-only news companies and periodical publishers.
Staff Writers Katie Sawyer, Gabrielle Olivera and Jim Small, a reporter for the Arizona Mirror, contributed to this story.