HELENA — Lewis and Clark County leaders have announced how they’re dividing up $10.5 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
On Tuesday, leaders released information on dozens of projects that will receive a share of the county’s direct allocation of ARPA money.
“We are pleased with the breadth and quality of the projects this ARPA funding will support across the County,” said Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Jim McCormick in a statement. “It was our goal to select projects with a broad effect on community needs without creating ongoing financial burden to local taxpayers and we’ve achieved that goal.”
McCormick told MTN it took time to make sure each application fit within the strict federal rules on how ARPA funding can be spent.
“We want to make sure that what we do, we’ve crossed the t’s, dotted the I’s,” he said.
The county directed the money toward five broad goals: the COVID public health response, public safety and services, county facility improvements, water and sewer infrastructure and community assistance. Leaders say their focus was on projects with an immediate need and a long-term impact.
One recipient was Helena Food Share. Executive director Bruce Day says the demand for their services spiked during the pandemic – and it’s kept growing. He says the number of households they serve is up 51% this July compared with July 2021, and the overall service has gone up 71% over that time.
“Many of our neighbors are facing such unanticipated hardships, from the negative impact of the pandemic and certainly other things beyond,” Day said.
Food Share is receiving $500,000 in ARPA funding. Day says they hope to use that money as they work toward creating a new food distribution facility in the Helena area. He says they’ve known for some time that they were outgrowing their current facility, but the pandemic made it even clearer.
Day says Food Share is currently in the planning stages of that project.
“We think it’s a critical project for the community, and glad to have the support for it when we get to that point,” he said.
PureView Health Center is receiving $250,000 to reimburse them for part of the cost of medical equipment for their new downtown clinic. CEO Jill Steeley says when they launched their response to COVID, it disrupted their financial plans for the clinic.
“The operation out at the Fairgrounds took a great deal of resources, the operations at our clinics took a lot of resources, and so some of the money that we had earmarked to purchase medical and dental equipment for our new clinic on Last Chance Gulch was used for COVID response,” she said.
Steeley says they’re grateful to the county for the support.
“We still have so much further to go in trying to recuperate those COVID expenses, but this is definitely a huge help to us,” she said.
Other nonprofits receiving grants include Helena Area Habitat for Humanity, Florence Crittenton and Margaret Stuart Youth Home.
The county also provided direct allocation money for water and sewer improvements in places like Eastgate Village and Craig, as well as at Canyon Creek School. In addition, they supported those projects – and others, like Elk Creek Colony – to receive ARPA infrastructure funding through the state of Montana’s allocation.