Nine New Ways Biden’s Rescue Plan Is Helping Iowa Communities

A little more than a year after it was passed, more Iowa communities are starting to approve the use of American Rescue Plan money for projects

Some of these projects aim to solve problems related to water, public safety, and other social services. In many cases, this is only the first round of funding coming to these communities.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021. It has provided nearly $4.5 billion in funds to the state of Iowa while individual cities and counties also received hundreds of millions.

Already in 2022, many new projects have been approved around the state. Here’s a look at how nine Iowa communities, mostly recently, have utilized those funds under three main services.

Water Infrastructure

In January, the Tama City Council approved funding to replace lead water lines. Leftover lead water lines can lead to health risks for people drinking the water. Finding the lines often delay tasks that require digging or other underground work because the Iowa Department of Natural Resources requires the lines to be replaced, regardless of whether a homeowner is prepared for that.

The city decided it would be best to find and take care of the remaining lines all at once by taking advantage of the opportunity the American Rescue Plan offers.

The program allows residents to request the city test their water lines. If lead is found, the city will pay to replace the water lines at minimal expense to the resident.

In a December meeting, the Hampton City Council approved a plan that commits American Rescue Plan money to the city’s water department. It passed the council unanimously.

Public Safety

In March, Boone County approved $50,000 to each of the county’s eight volunteer fire departments. Later in the month, supervisors also approved upgrades to the computers for county employees.

Similarly, the Newton City Council in February approved allocating the first half of the city’s Rescue Plan money to buying new equipment for the fire and police departments, developing a residential area, and reconstructing part of a road downtown.

The Des Moines County Board of Supervisors decided to spend its $7 million allocation on a new public health building since the existing building lacks the space the county needs.

For the most part, Iowa cities and counties have decided to use the one-time money on one-time expenses and/or projects with known price tags.

Social Services

Other locations are using the American Rescue Plan for social services such as affordable housing and shelters for unhoused citizens.

In Cedar Rapids, money will be directed toward housing loans and adding more units to group and rental homes. The city will also build a new facility in the NewBo area with 10 affordable housing units.

Other money will go toward supporting mental health access, funding an employment hub for a homeless service agency, and to an LGBTQ youth center.

Polk County will allocate $15 million to affordable housing, a major need in Iowa’s most populous county.

Johnson County will use part of its money on addressing food inequities.

Scott County is also spending its allocation on affordable housing and shelter for people facing homelessness or eviction. Humility Homes & Services, a Davenport group dedicated to eradicating homelessness, will receive money for 35 rental units and to expand its case managing and administrative abilities.

The Salvation Army Quad Cities will receive money to shelter people facing eviction and to rehouse people who lost their homes.

All over Iowa, many boards of supervisors and city councils have asked for public input and assessed needs in their communities. Now, those same groups are approving projects to help their citizens. Cities have until 2024 to commit the funds and until 2026 to use them, so the American Rescue Plan will continue doing good in Iowa for years to come.

 

Nikoel Hytrek
4/11/22

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