The Polk County Board of Supervisors is injecting millions of dollars of federal money into projects ranging from water trails to health care.
The board on Tuesday approved a spending plan for $36.8 million of the American Rescue Plan Act funds the county received from Congress last year. Among priorities: $6 million for residents looking to repair their homes, $5 million in down payment assistance homebuyers and $3 million for psychiatric urgent care.
“I am proud of the extraordinary amount of work that went into this effort to identify initiatives that will have a lasting impact on our community,” board chair Angela Connelly said in a statement.
As part of the coronavirus relief bill that Congress passed in March 2021, lawmakers allocated funds to local governments based on the size of the populations they serve. Polk County received $95 million. Combined with previous spending — which included $15.2 million to build affordable housing —Tuesday’s allocations will account for most of the remainder of the funds, county spokesperson Jon Cahill said in a news release.
In addition to setting money aside for housing repairs and purchases, the supervisors agreed to spend about $11.6 million on projects to improve water quality and encourage outdoors activity.
The board allocated $2 million for the Iowa Confluence Water Trails project, a major downtown development that would modify the two low-head dams to create surfing and kayaking on the Des Moines River. The total project, with a projected budget about $125 million, also will include boat launches and a calm-water area where paddlers can take a break from the rapids.
The board agreed to spend $2 million to assist in the purchase of 1,000 acres north of Grimes for the Brenton Slough/Beaver Creek Greenway. The board also agreed to spend $2 million on the Walnut Creek Regional Basin project, which will create a lake or basin in Grimes or Urbandale to hold excess water from Walnut Creek, helping prevent floods that cause property damage downstream in Windsor Heights and Clive.
The county allocated about $10 million to health care programs, with most of the money going toward mental health. In addition to the funds for psychiatric urgent care, the board voted to give $2 million to Eyerly Ball, a UnityPoint nonprofit that provides mental health services.
The board allocated some of the money to general priorities without identifying a specific recipient. It set aside about $1.8 million for mental health workforce needs and another $1 million for the nursing workforce.
Cahill told the Des Moines Register that some of the county’s money will go into funding pools, with additional funding from nonprofits and other local governments. He said local leaders will alter determine how to allocate that spending.
“There’s still some dotting of the i’s, crossing of the t’s,” he said.
The board allocated about $3.6 million to helping disadvantaged communities, with about $2.6 million of that going to the United Way of Central Iowa. Another $500,000 is going to 6th Avenue Corridor Development in north Des Moines.