PENOBSCOT COUNTY, Maine — Some communities across the country are in the process of deciding how to spend large sums of money they received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Penobscot County is one of them. With nearly $30 million at their disposal, county officials hope to hear from the public about where they think some of these funds should be spent.
The $25.9 million of ARPA funds designated to Penobscot County is split into two chunks. The county received the first sum of about $14.75 million in May of 2021, and the second payment is expected in May of this year.
A survey is available for people to fill out online, by selecting needs they think are important. There's also a write-in section where people can share other ideas or ask questions.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has some guidelines for possible uses, since the money has to be invested in issues that are specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the possibilities listed in the Penobscot County survey include:
- small business assistance
- public health
- broadband infrastructure
- homeless services
Per the Treasury, funds generally can't be used for:
- a pension account
- debt service
- legal settlements
- rainy day funds
In addition to the survey, officials scheduled meetings throughout Penobscot County and over Zoom to explain to the public how the money can and cannot be used according to federal rules. At the meetings, officials will also hear from the public what they want the money to be spent on.
The in-person sessions are scheduled for:
- 7 p.m. on Jan. 5 at Bangor City Hall
- 3 p.m. on Jan. 11 at the Newport Public Safety Building
- 6 p.m.on Jan. 12 at Old Town Town Council Chambers
- 6 p.m. on Jan. 19 at East Millinocket Town Hall
- 2 p.m. on Jan. 29 at the Brewer Community Center
- 3 p.m. on Feb. 2 at Lincoln Northern Penobscot Tech Region III
The remote sessions will be held over Zoom at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 8 and 6 p.m. on Feb. 8.
“There is a lot of need out there," Laura Sanborn, chair of the Penobscot County commissioners, told NEWS CENTER Maine. "We're really paying attention because all the communities in Penobscot County received funds and want to make sure there’s not a whole lot of duplicating of programs. With our history here in Penobscot County of mental health... we want to make sure that maybe we can make a difference.”