HELENA — On Tuesday, Lewis and Clark County approved their first two grants that will use direct county funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Both grants went to public health projects to ensure services are able to continue this next year. The larger of the two grants was $120,000 to sustain Nurse Family Partnership and Parents as Teachers evidence-based home visiting services for high-risk families and young mothers.
The county has been backing a multi-faceted support system for years that help with housing navigation, children’s health, parenting advice and more.
“Home visiting, in general, is about prevention and about community supports. And so I think this is an essential service for our community to keep our families whole, keep them together,” said Community Health Promotion Division Administrator A.C. Rothenbuecher. “It affects all of our community when our families are supported and are accessing the services they need.”
The county says they were informed by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to expect around a 50 percent reduction in potential state funding this year. The ARPA grant will ensure the initiative can continue while they figure out what the future will look like.
The other grant was $35,200 for continued COVID-19 wastewater testing with Carroll College through next year, which Public Health says has been a vital tool so far. On Aug. 9, the county saw a significant rise in COVID prevalence in wastewater. In the following week, the number of confirmed COVID cases began dramatically rising with the new wave.
“It’s really important because it gives us information regardless of a person’s choice to test,” said Health Officer Drenda Niemann.
The new grants come from a $13.5 million pool of money the county was given for direct funding of projects. So far the county has received about half that funding from the federal government and is expected to receive the other half next year.
Although these are the first, County Grants Administrator Ann McCauley says to expect a multitude of more grant funding requests in the coming months.
“We’ve received a number of applications just from county departments and I’m in the process of developing a community application where community organizations or eligible projects can apply. I hope to have that out hopefully by mid-September,” said McCauley.
In addition to the direct county ARPA funds, county staff and leaders have also been working with organizations that are seeking state APRA dollars for infrastructure projects which comes from a separate pool of funding.
“Certainly we’ve seen a lot of interest from water and sewer districts within the county as well as water associations,” McCauley noted. “We’ve also received requests from school districts and Hutterite colonies that are all looking to do needed upgrades to their water or sewer infrastructure.”