Pittsylvania County received approximately $11.7 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal stimulus bill passed in DATE in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those funds are being put to use on major projects that will positively impact tens of thousands of county residents, as well as county employees and fire and ems volunteers.
While the more than $10 million that Pittsylvania County received from the federal CARES Act in March of 2020 had many approved uses, ARPA funding is much more difficult to spend. There are only a few major categories of approved funding:
- Public Health
- Negative Economic Impact
- Services to Disproportionately Impacted Communities
- Premium Pay
- Revenue Replacement
While Pittsylvania County made many smaller purchases, as well as a few large purchases, with CARES ACt funds, ARPA funds are being used almost exclusively for large investments.
Internet Expansion: $6.5 million
More than half of Pittsylvania County's ARPA funds are being used for the expansion of internet across our county through a partnership with RiverStreet Networks and Pittsylvania County Schools. Pittsylvania County, by investing $6.5 million in ARPA funds, as well as an additional $4.5 million that will come from a revenue-sharing agreement, is helping RiverStreet with a major fiber-to-the-home project that is expected to cost $75 million and pass more than 11,985 unserved locations.
Pittsylvania County Schools contributed an additional $5.5 million in ARPA funds to the project.
While this project is an unprecedented investment, this does not represent the end of Pittsylvania County’s involvement. In partnership with RiverStreet Networks, Pittsylvania County is committed to leveraging additional state and federal funds, as well as other grant opportunities, to continue expanding internet access across our communities. With this significant investment, Pittsylvania County is also entering into a revenue-sharing agreement with RiverStreet Networks, and all of that revenue will be re-invested into continuing to expand the network.
Water Improvements: $1.838 million
During September's meetings, the Board of Supervisors signed off on two separate water system projects that total over $1.8 million. These projects touch on several of the designated categories for ARPA funds, particularly public health and infrastructure.
Robin Court Water System Improvement: $965,382
The water system in Robin Court is a well system that was built in the early 1970s and taken over by the Pittsylvania County Service Authority (now part of Pittsylvania County Public Works) in the 1980s. The Virginia Department of Health issued a consent order requiring Pittsylvania County to complete repairs to this system, which is to the northeast of Chatham and serves approximately 17 residents.
Horseshoe Road Extension: $873,000
Another water related project from Pittsylvania County Public Works is an extension down Horseshoe Road, which would add an estimated 28 new customers. Citizens on this road first asked for an extension in 2017 due to poor well yields.
Fire and Rescue: $1.15 million
During its August meeting, the Board approved using approximately $1 million in ARPA funds for fire and rescue agencies at the recommendation of Dan River Supervisor Joe Davis. Pittsylvania County has more than 20 volunteer fire departments and 12 rescue squads (many of which are joint agencies that provide fire and rescue services). Pittsylvania County can’t fully fund these agencies, but our Board is determined to provide as much support as possible.
With our CARES Act funds, the Board purchased ambulances for several volunteer agencies and bought a significant amount of personal protection equipment. Since ARPA funds have tighter guidelines, the Board of Supervisors set up the following arrangement for use of this $1 million:
- Departments will apply for a specific amount of money for a specific person to the Fire and Rescue Commission
- The Fire and Rescue Commission will consider the request and make a recommendation to the Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors
- The Finance Committee will make a recommendation to the full Board of Supervisors
- The full Board of Supervisors will have final approval.
The Board of Supervisors is working diligently to make sure that this $1 million, as well as the rest of the ARPA funds, are used in a way that makes the most impact and in a way that actually is allowed by the guidelines.
In addition to these funds for the agencies, the Board of Supervisors also decided in September to provide $500 stipends for active, vaccinated volunteers, again at the recommendation of Dan River Supervisor Joe Davis and the second of Banister Supervisor Charles Miller. To be eligible to receive these stipends, a volunteer must have run at least eight calls in the current calendar year and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of October 31. Pittsylvania County employees that also volunteer are not eligible for these stipends.
Employees: $1.096 million
As allowed by the ARPA guidelines, Just under $1.1 million have been allocated for two types of employee bonuses.
Premium Pay: $525,000
According to the guidelines set forth by the federal government, one of the uses for ARPA funds is premium pay, one-time bonuses for employees. The Commonwealth of Virginia elected to provide $3,000, one-time bonuses to all law enforcement, sheriff's deputies, and correctional officers. Since Pittsylvania County has approximately 27 deputies that are funded locally, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors decided to step in and give bonuses to those positions.
At that same August meeting, Dan River Supervisor Joe Davis recommended providing bonuses to all county employees for their work during the pandemic. This includes approximately $3,000 bonuses for all public safety-related and front line employees, particularly those with Animal Control, Solid Waste, Public Safety, and the Deaprtment of Social Services. Premium pay, one-time bonuses of $1,500 will go to the remainder of county employees. Only those employees in grades 1-24 on the county's pay scale are eligible for the bonuses, and part-time employees will receive a pro-rated bonus based on their weekly hours worked.
"The Board of Supervisors appreciates the dedication and consistent excellence of our employees, and we wanted to recognize and reward them for their critical service during the pandemic. We appreciate the State honoring our law enforcement and corrections officers, and we wanted to take that a step further and show appreciation for the rest of our employees." said Dan River District Supervisor Joe Davis, who proposed this use of the funds during the August Finance Committee meeting.
Vaccine Incentive: $571,000
Throughout the pandemic, and especially in recent months, COVID-19 has impacted County employees and, as a result, operations. Recently we have seen closures due to positive cases, an increase in employees (and families) who are in quarantine, and employee families being impacted by student exposure.
To further encourage employees to get vaccinated, Pittsylvania County will pay a $1,000 COVID incentive bonus to all fully vaccinated employees.
PPE and Building Maintenance: $250,000
We have allocated these funds for additional personal protection equipment, including masks, for our employees and volunteer stations.