ATLANTA — Federal COVID-19 relief funds continue to be put to use in Georgia through the American Rescue Plan Act.
Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that more ARPA funds will be used to address neighborhoods impacted by COVID, and homelessness in the state.
A $250 million “Improving Neighborhood Outcomes in Disproportionally Impacted Communities” grant, with awards of up to $2 million per qualified project, is open to projects that improve neighborhood features such as parks, recreation facilities, sidewalks and healthy food access.
The governor’s office suggests these types of community assets have been connected to decreased levels of mortality and illness, both in regards to avoiding the spread of COVID-19 and other physical or mental ailments.
“Though we have long since turned the corner on the pandemic, we know there are still some lingering public health impacts of COVID-19 that are broader than the disease itself. … They include mental health challenges and unhealthy physical conditions caused by isolation,” Kemp stated. “That’s why throughout the pandemic, we worked hard to keep our state parks and recreational facilities open and operating safely, encouraging people to continue to utilize environments where they could socially distance, get outdoors, get fresh air and exercise.”
Applications are being accepted through Nov. 18.
Local units of government, counties or nonprofits applying for the grant must use the Georgia Qualified Census Tract Dashboard to verify that the proposed project resides within one of the state’s QCTs.
Application information for the program can be found at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budgeting website.
Also announced last week, 20 projects amounting to $62 million will be awarded to housing initiatives across Georgia focused on fighting homelessness and housing insecurity worsened by the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional awards under the program will be announced in the coming weeks, according to the governor’s office.
“As Georgians faced the unprecedented challenges and economic downturn of the pandemic, COVID-19 robbed some of their financial stability, expanding the homeless population in vulnerable communities,” Kemp said. “Those who were already homeless faced even greater difficulties, with many already struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues. By investing these funds in those who are already making a difference around our state on these fronts, we will provide those most in need with resources that will aid them on the road to personal and financial recovery.”
Projects receiving awards include construction of new affordable housing, improvements to existing properties and assistance for those experiencing mental health problems while homeless, according to the governor’s office.
Late last month, Kemp announced a new ARP-funded grant which opened Sept. 1 for public safety entities to address increased crime and help offset a decrease in law enforcement staffing that occurred as local governments fought the effects and spread of COVID-19.
ARPA recipients must obligate the funds by Dec. 31, 2024, and spend them by Dec. 31, 2026, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The plan was approved in March 2021 and the state of Georgia is expected to receive $17.4 billion.
According to Georgia’s ARPA funding dashboard, the state has received more than $2.4 billion so far in ARPA funds and has obligated more than $1.5 billion of it.
The dashboard indicates that more than $170 million has actually been spent of the funds.