Forest Park is getting $1,862,979 from the American Rescue Plan Act federal stimulus funding package – but the village isn’t expected to have a clear plan on how to spend it until the end of the year.
The village government will receive the funding in two allotments, with the first half arriving within the next 30 days and the second half arriving six months later. Those funds can be spent in a number of ways, including addressing economic fallout from the pandemic, increasing pay for essential workers, make up for government revenue declines and to improve infrastructure. Forest Park has until Dec. 31, 2024 to commit those funds and until Dec. 31, 2026 to actually spend them.
In order to get the funds, the village council had to adopt a conflict-of-interest policy, agree to abide by the terms and conditions and approve a few other documents. The village commissioners did so during the Sept. 13 meeting unanimously and without discussion. According to Village Administrator Moses Amidei, village departments will spend the next few months deciding how to spend the money, with the goal of having something in place by the end of 2021.
Signed into law in March, the federal rescue plan is the third and by far the largest federal COVID-19 stimulus package. In order to get the funds, the village council had to approve several documents.
The Assurances of Compliance with Civil Rights Requirements commits the village to not only follow all the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal civil rights regulations, but requires any subcontractors that get the federal funding to comply with it, and maintain records of complaints and court filings alleging violations of said regulations. The Terms and Conditions document ensures that the village follows all of the rules and regulations regarding the use of the rescue funds. Most notably, they require the village to repay any money that was used improperly, sets up protections against whistleblowers and requires the village to encourage its contractors to adopt seatbelt requirements and establish workplace rules to discourage texting while driving.
The conflict-of-interest policy states that “No officer, official, employee or agent of the village” can in any way participate in any decision regarding contracts with any company where they or their partners or family members are employed or have any “financial or other interest” or “tangible personal benefit” in. It also states that they “may neither solicit nor accept gratuities, favors, or anything of monetary value from contractors or parties to subcontracts” except for “nominal interests or gifts” allowed by state law. Anyone caught violating the policy would face disciplinary action. When choosing contractors, Forest Park will be required to consider “contractor integrity, compliance with public policy, record of past performance, and financial and technical resources.” Finally, the village is required to disclose any potential conflict of interest to the U.S. Treasury.
In a memo to the village council, Letitia Olmsted, Forest Park’s finance director, wrote that the deadlines give the village “time to plan and implement a thorough process that ensures the funding will be used in a way that provides the best short-term stimulus with long-term positive impact for the community.”
Amidei told the Review that, “between now and the end of the year,” the village staff will work with commissioners to develop the plan. He expects that the plans would be discussed during public meetings, giving residents opportunities to give input. Amidei said that he couldn’t give a more detailed timetable as of Sept. 13.