The Mobile County Commission has received almost 200 funding proposals since it began accepting applications last month for the more than $80 million in federal funds it has to dish out.
The commission has $80.14 million through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act. Qualified projects must be focused on or located in Mobile County and demonstrate and can include infrastructure projects for water, sewer and broadband; an institution’s or government’s response to the pandemic; and the resulting negative economic impact or loss of revenue.
The large number of proposals illustrate a strong outreach by the commission and high levels of community interest, according to a commission statement. It also is reflective of the local need for these relief funds. The nearly 200 proposals request roughly $240 million in funds from the commission, or four times the local Rescue Plan allocation.
The proposals are now undergoing a risk assessment review process to help determine if they meet the Rescue Plan grant criteria.
Assessments will offer a layer of protection for the commission as they could be on the hook if money is misspent. The county’s Fiscal Year 2020 audit was issued by the Alabama Department of Examiners in October. In the report, state auditors cited the County Commission for “misusing” $500,000 in local funds when it contributed to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Relief Fund Program. Commission Attorney Jay Ross told Lagniappe the citation boils down to a simple disagreement on how the county and the state examiner’s office define a “public good.” The county simply filed a response to the citation explaining its position and no further action is expected.
Ross said the citation will not affect the county as it moves forward with distributing Rescue Plan monies, noting the grant program has set criteria for how they can be used.
Once assessments are completed, commissioners will then decide which applications to accept and how much they will provide to each one. If a project is selected for funding, the applicant will then enter into an agreement with Mobile County that provides the parameters associated with the proper use of the funds and reporting requirements for each specific project.
“Mobile County is working through these proposals as quickly as possible,” a commission spokesperson said. “Applicants who are contacted by Mobile County analysts seeking additional information, are requested to provide that information as soon as possible to prevent delays.”
Funding determinations should be made before Jan. 31, 2022. Lagniappe has requested access to review the filed applications.
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