Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide relief to states and localities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with its passage, an unprecedented level of federal funding is flowing into Maine counties. Effective allocation of these funds will aid recovery, address inequities, and improve prospects for individuals and businesses. Most counties are currently accepting public comment from residents and community organizations on how these funds are used.
Compared to other states, Maine counties perform relatively fewer functions. The purview of Maine counties includes:
- corrections and law enforcement (running county jails and sheriff’s offices)
- emergency management
- registries of deeds
- dispatch services
- probate courts
- regional public health services
- staffing for district attorney offices
Because counties have minimal capacity to implement programs, they should prioritize partnerships with local municipalities and nonprofit organizations in allocating ARPA dollars.
Maine counties will receive federal ARPA funds in two installments — one beginning in May 2021 and another within 12 months. Counties have until 2024 to make plans for using the money and until 2026 to spend it. In total, Maine counties will receive $261 million. Maine cities will receive an additional $121.5 million and the state will receive another $119.2 million to funnel to municipalities. The federal government will also provide funding for Tribal governments, a total of $20 billion across all states, and is determining those amounts through a separate application process.
The Maine Center for Economic Policy submitted guidance to counties to help ensure funds adequately respond to local data-demonstrated needs and reduce inequality in Maine communities.