Sonoma County is moving forward with the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, that would provide ninety-six million dollars for post-pandemic relief. During the first budget hearing of the year, the same day the economy has fully opened up in over a year, Supervisor Chris Coursey stressed the importance of these funds.
"This is where we can look at having an impact, not just on people who have been directly affected by COVID the disease but the impacts that have rippled through the community," Coursey said.
This federal funding can be used for COVID-19 relief, which has cost the county an estimated forty-three million dollars. The funds can also be used for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. Upstream Investments Sonoma County and the county's equity department will help manage the funds.
Many residents urge the board to ensure these funds are distributed to underserved communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Former chair of Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights D'Mitra Smith asked the board to focus on the needs of Black communities when distributing the money and funding programs and a Black Health and Housing Advisory Task Force.
"If Sonoma County is to engage in tangible equity work, adequate funding and programs are necessary to begin to address generations of policies which denied Black people the economic security and advancement that should be guaranteed to all Americans," Smith said. "The County in partnership with cities must take steps to address this generational harm. We must be represented in this process and so far we have been shut out of the conversation, the planning and the policy."
The board will come back to discuss how the ARPA funds will be distributed in July.