Greene County to use ARPA funds to increase broadband access, build new jail despite federal rules

The county received $32.8 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan

Editor’s Note: This story is part of a Dayton Daily News series tracking how dozens of our area’s largest governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars combined from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Visit our “Billions in COVID aid: Where it’s going” special section on our website to see summaries from other communities.

Greene County officials sought to use the county’s $32.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds in ways that would benefit “every individual in the county,” according to county Administrator Brandon Huddleson.

The county’s ARPA funds have been spent on 67 different endeavors so far, which Huddleson said covered a “wide variety of projects across the county.” The county has another $2.5 million yet to be used.

The county’s largest use of ARPA funds came in the form of a $10 million “revenue replacement” — a transfer that is allowed under ARPA’s federal guidelines to replace revenue that localities lost as a result of the pandemic.

“Entities were permitted to use a standard $10 (million) number for revenue replacement or use a formula and prove the revenue lost was more than $10 (million),” Huddleson said.

Greene County is using that $10 million to build a new jail, according to Huddleson.

U.S. Treasury guidelines don’t allow localities to use ARPA funds to build correctional facilities. But those strings are no longer attached once the money is declared a revenue replacement. Now the county can use it for any generally legal government expense. Greene County isn’t the only local government to use the funds this way.

The county’s second largest expenditure was a $9.6 million investment into broadband expansion across the county with private partner Cincinnati Bell, also known as altafiber. Dayton Daily News previously reported that the private company will invest another $55 million into the project in order to increase broadband access in the southern and eastern parts of Greene County.

Greene County Commissioner Dick Gould described the ability to use ARPA funds to increase rural broadband access as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” The project is expected to be complete by 2025.

Other large expenses include sanitary engineering and water projects, $1.1 million for a Greene County Family Violence Prevention Center, $1 million for the Emerge Recovery & Trade Initiative, $700,000 for a “one-stop permit program” for several county departments, and investments in the prosecutor’s office, clerk of courts, and library.

The county also provided grants of up to $25,000 to 37 nonprofit programs, totaling $815,832. The county has listed all of these expenditures on its website.

The county has about $2.5 million left to allocate, which the county said it will commit before the end of 2024. Per federal guidelines, all ARPA money needs to be spent before the end of 2026.