County receives $22.4 million from federal aid

SHEBOYGAN – The county will have an extra $22.4 million to spend over the next three and a half years.

County Administrator Adam Payne informed the County Board Tuesday May 18 that the county is set to receive $22,403,433 from the federal American Rescue Plan act.

“This is a really unique situation,” Payne said of the money that was part of the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March. “I’ve never experienced a situation where we got a direct investment from the federal government.”

The $1.9 trillion package included $350 billion to states, cities and local governments originally intended to help replace tax revenue lost due to the pandemic.

Those allocations were finalized last week, Payne said. Under the terms of the act, the county has until September, 2024, to spend the funds.

“This will let us focus on making some important investments,” for the county, Payne told the board. “We are going to have the chance to address some negative economic impacts,” from the pandemic.

While the county has already been reimbursed for many of its unexpected coronavirus expenses, there are still some impacts that may have to be dealt with, according to Payne.

For instance, he said, the patient census at Rocky Knoll has fallen from 130 to 99 as a result of the pandemic, which could force the county to cover revenue shortfalls there.

“With this money, we may be able to mitigate some of that loss,” without putting the burden on the county tax levy and county taxpayers, Payne said.

The federal funds can also be used for a number of infrastructure projects, Payne added.

Those, he said, could include:

· Efforts to ease the county’s housing shortage and help attract needed new employees to the county.

· Sewer and water service connections to the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport that could help spur economic and industrial development at the airport.

· Broadband improvements to bring better service to all areas of the county.

The county could partner with the city of Sheboygan and other local governments on qualifying projects with the American Rescue Plan funds, Payne added.

“Ideas are already being floated,” he told the board.

• • •

The administrator again lauded the county’s effort, public and private, to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

His remarks came after two speakers, Suzanne Speltz and Judi Pool of Sheboygan, were critical of county government and the coronavirus response in public addresses to the board. Both have appeared before the board to raise similar issues in the past.

“I have concerns regarding transparency in our county government,” Speltz said. “I’m not really sure who our government is working for.”

“My concern is the coercive methods being used to divide the people of this county,” Pool told the supervisors.

“We don’t make any decisions here in a vacuum, we always collaborate,” Payne responded.

He pointed out that the advisory board that met almost daily to monitor the pandemic situation included numerous private sector members, including business leaders and health care professionals.

“All of us worked together to make the best decisions we could,” Payne continued. “It’s been 14 long, challenging months that have taken a toll on our community, our country and the world. No one’s had a road map to follow.”

• • •

The board learned of several honors recently won by county Public Health Officer Starrlene Grossman, who has served at the point of the county’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Payne said Grossman was recently the 2021 Spirit of Sheboygan County award for Outstanding Essential Worker from the United Way of Sheboygan County.

She also earned the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce’s Top Young Professional of the Year award, which also earned her a certificate of commendation from Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah.

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