By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
Well, Monday was a tough day for Pierce County. As you undoubtably know by now, we’ve been moved back to Phase 2. The more restrictive rules go into effect April 16.
Like many of our residents, I was frustrated by the rollback after all the work we have done and are doing.
First, I am very thankful that our residents who are vulnerable to the most serious outcomes (those over 65 years of age) are mostly vaccinated – over 66%!
Secondly, I talked with our hospital system leaders, and they assure me that they are ready and have capacity to provide care for any COVID patient in our community. My frustration stems from the fact that we’ve been watching the county-to-county vaccination data on the State Department of Health website since mid-February. It shows we are not receiving our fair share of vaccine allocations. The Council Chair and I wrote a letter to the governor expressing our concerns on March 29th, but with the roll back, I have to raise the alarm as loudly as I can.
While I’m not interested in getting in a public argument with state officials, it’s my job to fight for the residents of our community and I plan to continue doing so.
In the meantime, we are focused on moving forward! Just this week I submitted to the Council my proposal for how to invest the $175 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. We will be receiving our first of two payments in a matter of days.
Many of the priorities, where we focused our CARES Act investments in 2020, are getting their own direct program funding beyond our County ARPA allocation. For example, we anticipate receiving nearly $130M for rental assistance, in addition to our $175M. That direct federal support to many of those important areas means we can use much of our county portion to address critical issues facing our county beyond recovering from the pandemic. We can leverage the one-time funding to help move our community forward to a better future!
We’ve learned over the last year that home became many things: an office, a bakery, a classroom, a sanctuary, and a safe place to quarantine. And the importance of having safe and stable housing was multiplied by COVID!
So, the core of our proposal centers on the need and importance of a secure place to live. Without housing, it’s difficult if not impossible, to be healthy and safe. We want to focus on ensuring every resident is housed and able to access the support they need to do so.
Here’s the high-level breakdown of how we proposed spending the ARPA funds:
- $78.1 million to support the shelter needs and wellbeing of residents
- $48.2 million to help businesses survive and begin to recover
- $20.4 million to respond to the pandemic
- $29 million to ensure accessible county and court operations
You can take a look at the brief video below to see how I described the proposal to the Council.
If you are interested in more specific details about how I propose we use the federal funding, I invite you to watch the entire presentation by me and Finance director Gary Robinson.
Or you can read all the documents here.
I want to thank the members of the community steering committee whose input and counsel informed the recommended funding proposals. They’ve been generous with their time and expertise, and I’m grateful for their support over the last year as we first started with spending the CARES Act funds.
Before I close, I want to thank the students at Harrison Preparatory School in Lakewood for their invitation to meet with them yesterday. I had a chance to chat with members of their “Green Team” who are focused on lowering their school’s carbon footprint. They are also helping plan the upcoming Youth Environmental and Sustainability Summit on April 24.
I took advantage of my time with these young leaders to sign the 2030 Sustainability Plan into law. We have a lot of work ahead of us but I’m glad we have a solid plan. A special thanks to Ryan Dicks and our Sustainable Resources team for developing the plan, and to the Council for their important work getting it passed.
This weekend promises us fantastic weather. I hope you can get outside, recharge, play and see the possibilities that spring always brings us.
And, please, mask up, stay distanced and get vaccinated.
First published on the Pierce County website.