Kennebec County awards more than $20 million in federal pandemic relief funds
AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, staff at the Augusta Reentry Center were in a bit of a shock.
The agency, which provides support to people affected by substance abuse to reduce the impact of substance abuse on communities and increase long-term recovery rates, was one of 44 organizations to apply for federal funds through the Share from Kennebec County federal pandemic recovery funds.
And it was one of 39 projects to be funded in part or in whole by the county’s $23.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, following Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the commissioners of the Kennebec County.
“We are very grateful,” said Courtney Allen, policy director of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project.
She stood in front of Hill House, the county government building, with Brandon Toby, director of operations at the Augusta Reentry Recovery Center, and Kelli Johnson, director of administration at the center.
The three, who had attended the commissioners’ meeting, said the nearly $622,000 in federal funds Kennebec County commissioners have agreed to donate to the center should be transformative for the program.
“(It) literally keeps the doors open on the center,” Allen said.
The money will pay for overhead costs, like rent and utilities, but it will also provide funds to help pay current staff and add staff.
“We were kind of slapping it together,” Toby said. “We’ve been able to keep this place floating right around, really, hopes and dreams and a little elbow grease.”
“And very dedicated volunteers,” Johnson said.
With the resources currently available to the program, it has already been at work inside the Kennebec County Jail providing recovery coach training and reintegration training, and offering support groups to the Augusta Recovery Reentry Center.
Allen said the investment will help the center prove it can do what it set out to do.
“Then we’ll continue to fundraise and do what we’ve always done – find the money – because the need is so great,” Allen said.
Funds on the list will pay for projects ranging from repairs to Clinton’s water tank to avert catastrophic failure to renovations to Gardiner’s Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center and investments in housing to support child care services. children across the county.
Among the most significant requests granted are $3 million for the Greater Augusta Utility District to run drinking water transmission lines from State Street to Hospital Street under the Kennebec River in Augusta; $603,000 to Kennebec Valley Family Dentistry to increase the nonprofit’s ability to provide affordable dental services to people in MaineCare, who have limited income, or who are underinsured or uninsured; and $1 million to the North River Company to help pay for renovations to the old Lockwood factory in Waterville for 65 apartments, 18 of which are expected to be market price and 47 are expected to be affordable.
The decisions come nearly a year after the county launched the grant program to distribute the county’s share of federal pandemic recovery funds in August 2021. For the commissioners, the goal was to identify projects with the potential for long-term impact that would help a large segment of the county’s population.
All projects were scored based on a series of questions, including the likelihood of the project succeeding, the availability of other funds to complete the project, and the demonstrated economic harm due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other factors.
During two workshops in May, county officials, working with consultants from BerryDunn, the public accounting and management consulting firm hired by the county for the project, made the final decision on the allocation of funds. .
“This money will pay dividends in Kennebec County for years to come. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fund everyone,” said District Commissioner George Jabar II; his district includes northern Kennebec County.
District 1 Commissioner Patsy Crockett thanked her colleagues for their work on the project and for thinking about what was best for county residents.
“It’s been a great opportunity,” said Crockett, who represents Augusta and six other communities in central Kennebec County. “The Biden administration and the people of Washington sent us this money to try to help the people of Kennebec County.”
The American Rescue Plan Act channeled $65.1 billion in direct federal aid to counties across the United States. County officials received the first half of the funds a year ago and expect the second half to arrive this month.
According to program rules, funds must be committed to projects by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
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