(The Center Square) – South Carolina’s 254 municipalities with populations under 50,000 will receive the $435 million they were allocated collectively under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
When that money will materialize in municipal coffers remains uncertain since the small cities and towns must apply for their share through an online portal managed by the state that should be operating by Wednesday, the South Carolina Department of Administration said.
Once allocations are reviewed and approved, municipalities across the Palmetto State could begin receiving ARPA aid within 10 business days, the department said.
The ARPA money is becoming after Gov. Henry McMaster’s administration waited until Aug. 27 to submit the needed request for the allocation.
Unlike the $1.2 billion in ARPA money that flowed directly to counties and large cities – and the $2.5 billion in various federal pandemic assistance allocations the General Assembly controls – small cities and towns had to wait to receive their allocations until the state requested the U.S. Treasury to release the funding.
South Carolina was the third-to-last state to do so, according to the U.S. Treasury, prompting alarm from Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) Executive Director Todd Glover, who twice this month called on the governor to green-light the funding to allow local officials to move forward with stymied plans.
“We’re very pleased and happy we’ve just taken this step forward,” MASC spokesperson Scott Slatton told the Charleston Post & Courier. “Our hope is that it will be easy” to actually secure the money.
Under ARPA, South Carolina counties are set to receive about $1 billion, the state's 17 largest cities about $191 million and under-50,000 municipalities, $435 million.
Both General Assembly chambers have established appropriations ad hoc committees to study and recommend how to best allocate $600 million from the Savannah River Site (SRS) plutonium settlement and $2.5 billion in federal pandemic assistance the state will receive via the ARPA.
The $3.1 billion in one-time money from the SRS settlement and ARPA does not include the $2.94 billion under ARPA and other federal aid programs being allocated to South Carolina’s 79 public school districts.
Lawmakers are expected to return to Columbia this fall for a special session to determine how best to spend the money. In addition to the panels, state agencies are also submitting wish lists.
After tourism spending fell by nearly one-third in 2020, the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism is asking for $79 million in ARPA money to boost marketing for the state’s $24 billion tourism industry, develop new state parks and to fund beach renourishment projects.
Parks, Recreation & Tourism Director Duane Parrish said last week during a House SRS/ARPA Appropriations Ad Hoc Committee hearing a $20 million investment in COVID-19-related funds into tourism marketing last fall paid dividends this spring with 2021 lodging taxes up $125 million over 2020 – a $6.30 return in investment for every $1 of extra spending on marketing, he said.
McMaster’s AccelerateSC Committee last week brought forward 19 recommendations for ARPA money that also will be considered by the chambers’ two SRS/ARPA panels in the lead-up to the presumed special session.