D.C. Watch

The 117th Congress concluded Jan. 3, but not before passing an omnibus spending bill beneficial to Texas counties.

January 13, 2023

Legislative News

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Counties will soon gain new flexibility to spend federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on things not directly related to the pandemic, including new roads and bridges and aid to people affected by wildfires, floods and other natural disasters.

This broadened spending authority comes from the bipartisan State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act championed by Texas Sen. John Cornyn and California Sen. Alex Padilla. The bill, to which the Texas Association of Counties and the National Association of Counties lent support, was added as an amendment to the fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations bill.

Under the revised spending rules, counties can use their ARPA funds to provide the local matching amount necessary to draw down additional federal grants for road and transportation projects, including some funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Counties will be allowed to use up to $10 million or 30% of their ARPA allotment, whichever is greater, for such transportation infrastructure.

There is no cap on the amount that can be dedicated to natural disaster relief, such as temporary housing, food and financial assistance.

The amendment also grants additional flexibility to county governments to invest in infrastructure, community development and disaster response. It will also provide the U.S. Treasury with much-needed resources to assist counties in deploying recovery funds.

Additionally, the amendment extends eligibility to consolidated city-county governments to receive allocations from the $1.5 billion Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund, authorized under ARPA, for counties facing fiscal challenges due to the presence of federal public lands within their boundaries.

Beyond this amendment, the omnibus bill significantly invests in the RECOMPETE pilot program and technology hubs authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, reforms the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy by providing Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program benefits for juveniles awaiting trial, funds the 988 suicide and crisis line, reauthorizes community mental health services block grants and funds maternal mental health.

For more information, please contact Megan Molleur at (800) 456-5974.