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Pandemic relief funds arriving in Lee County soon

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FORT MADISON (WGEM) -- Millions in pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan are coming to Lee County next month.

Supervisor Gary Seyb said in addition to the more than $6 million going to the county government alone, he believes most of the county's incorporated cities will also be getting funds.

"We're going to hopefully work with them as well to see if there is something we can do to enhance and help them meet their needs," he said.

Seyb said they've already received their first of two $3,268,729 payments last week and the question they're now trying to answer is what to do with it.

He said the federal government has guidelines for what the money can be used for.

"There is a big push towards broadband, also septic sewer systems and any funding that has been lost or is to be spent on the COVID relief response," Seyb said.

Fort Madison will be getting a total of $1.4 million with the first payment expected to come in the middle of June.

City manager David Varley said the funds will be a big help.

"This will help us get ahead on some of the projects we're looking at," he said. "We've got some replacement of water lines, replacement of sewer lines. They have public safety in there. We need a new fire station."

Seyb said the county is also looking at improving broadband.

"We actually have some studies going on right now to figure out exactly where we have some of those dead zones and hopefully some of this money can address that," he said.

But both county and city leaders said the governments instructions about which projects qualify have been broad and unclear.

"The US treasury sent out a list of guidelines for what the funds can be used for but some of them are still a little unclear," Varley said.

"If the money is spent on things that we should not have spent the money on, we're going to have to pay it back," Seyb said.

Seyb said while they're waiting on further clarity on how the funds can be applied, there's no rush as local governments have until 2024 to designate the funds and until 2026 to actually spend them.

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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