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Ask Us: How will city of Salisbury spend American Rescue Plan funds?

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to askus@salisburypost.com.

SALISBURY — City leaders say they don’t yet have a formal list of expenses or projects to be funded by the more than $7 million granted from the federal American Rescue Plan.

Funding must be obligated by 2024.

Readers asked about how those funds will be spent, whether the public will have any say and whether council members will receive the one-time bonus authorized for city employees at the Sept. 7 meeting. City Council members voted to use around $1.7 million of the ARP funds to grant one-time bonuses for full- and part-time employees who worked during the pandemic in addition to $250 bonuses as incentives to raise the vaccination rate, which hovered around 36% when the measures passed.

Among the eligible uses for ARP funds, according to the U.S. Treasury, is premium pay for employees. Salisbury employees will receive one-time bonuses ranging from $250 to $3,500 depending on how long they worked for the city and whether their position required them to be “on the frontline” during the pandemic. Finance Director Wade Furches estimated that about 86% of employees met the “critical” designation the city worked to develop in determining who was most at-risk.

The city clarified last week that council members will not receive the bonuses.

City Manager Lane Bailey also told council members he would return to the council in the near future with some ideas for spending ARP funds. The city received half of its total allocation of $7.23 million this year, with the remainder to be received sometime next year.

There is no date set for bringing those suggestions to the council, which are still being discussed internally, the city says. But the city plans to have multiple public input sessions in how the funds are allocated. Funds are not required to be fully obligated until 2024 and must be spent by 2026.

Another eligible use in the U.S. Treasury’s rules is to support public health expenditures, including COVID-19 mitigation efforts. The city’s recently approved vaccine incentive program for its more than 400 employees will grant those who are fully vaccinated with $250, and two additional allocations of $250 are possible once a 65% vaccination rate and 75% vaccination rate are reached, respectively.

The city has already offered three paid vacation days to employees who turn in their vaccination card by Oct. 29, which Furches said comes from their approved salaries. That measure was extended to Dec. 31.

Other eligible uses outlined in the interim final rule include addressing negative economic impacts, replacing lost revenue in local governments and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

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