After attending a national conference, Franklin County commissioners said they had ideas for how to spend the county’s $20.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act money.
Commissioners Tim Brinker and Dave Hinson were among 2,000 public servants from across the United States who attended the National Counties Association Legislative Conference February 12-16 in Washington, D.C.
“ARPA funding was a big topic — much clearer direction on what we can and can’t do with it,” Hinson said at a Tuesday meeting of county officials.
Hinson said he would like to use some of the money for operations and support for the county’s 911 dispatch center. Franklin County has not received as many landline taxes to fund services as residents abandon home phones and businesses shift to Internet-based systems.
“We know the funding has gone down, the cost has gone up, and they said ‘absolutely,'” Hinson said of speakers at the NACo meeting confirming ARPA money can be used. on 911.
Conference attendees were told of an Arizona county that was dividing its U.S. bailout funds among five commission districts, with each commissioner free to use the money as they see fit, Hinson said. “A commissioner was going to give each of his residents a direct check,” Hinson said, adding that each check was for about $165. “The problem with that is they have to have a social security number. You have to verify that they’re residents. The (consultant) kept going through the list of reasons why you shouldn’t do that. “
Some county officials said they had considered direct payments to residents, but were discouraged after hearing about the “red tape trail,” Hinson said.
Any ARPA money that Franklin County receives can be used on the 911 system, said Paul Guequierre, director of communications for the NACo.
Franklin County had spent $37,655 of its ARPA funds as of Thursday, County Auditor Angela Gibson said. Recent expenditures include medical gloves purchased for prison staff and COVID-19 tests for inmates.
Brinker said one of the conference’s goals was a discussion of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Act, a bill currently in Congress that would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that handle US money. medical or recreational cannabis industry.
“This guy from Southern California stood up and said, ‘We have a real problem here. We have storage units full of cash. Banks can’t accept that and can’t process it,” Brinker said.
Another problem is that marijuana dispensary employees are paid in cash. “And the bad people know about these hosted cash entities and these people who are trying to make a living by going home with cash every Friday, and they’re easy targets,” Brinker said.
The SAFE Act, which has bipartisan support, would allow money to go to federally insured banks, making funds safer both from a security and financial perspective, said Brinker.
Brinker said he asked how employees could be paid by a company deemed “non-compliant” by the federal government, but then be asked to report the income on federal tax forms.
“The money is OK for the feds to accept on their tax forms, but not yet OK to report for banking institutions that the feds support?” Brinker asked. “They’ve created an underlying darkness by doing all of this, and it’s really going to wreak havoc unless they fix it.”
Not being able to use the banks puts Franklin County medical marijuana dispensaries at risk, Brinker said. “They are targets in the eyes of the wicked,” he said.
County Councilman Mark Piontek said a recent crisis in Kansas involved a van carrying money for Kansas City-area dispensaries to a Colorado credit union licensed to handle those funds because it didn’t is not provided by the federal government.
About $165,620 in cash was seized by the Dickinson County Sheriff‘s Department on Intestate 70 near Abilene, Kansas, in May 2021, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Hinson said Missouri could create banks outside the federal system that could handle marijuana revenue, but none did.
“Or if the president just downgrades it from a Schedule 1 drug,” he added. “It’s the other way.”
The federal government classifies marijuana in the same category as drugs like heroin, ecstasy and peyote.