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On Tuesday, Cole County officials got notification the county had received its first half of money from the next round of federal COVID-relief funds.

County Auditor Kristen Berhorst said the county received more than $7. 5 million from the American Rescue Plan.

An application was signed last Monday by Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman, and the next day, the full commission approved sending the application into the federal government.

Berhorst said the current estimate on the total ARP funding the county would be getting was $14.8 million.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury will oversee and administer the payments to state and local governments.

Municipalities and counties will receive funds in two disbursements — 50 percent this year and the remaining 50 percent no earlier than 12 months from the first payment. Berhorst said the second portion of the ARP funds may not be as large as this first amount because the second payment will be based on the final 2020 census figures.

All relief funds must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, but spending of funds can go on through the end of 2026.

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Federal officials have said ARP funds could be used for infrastructure projects, especially projects to increase broadband capabilities to residents.

With the coming of the pandemic, many areas of the country found they needed increased or improved broadband service as many people had to work from home.

Under ARP guidelines, broadband projects would be required to increase download and upload speeds in unserved or under-served areas.

The County Commission has indicated broadband expansion is at the top of the list when it comes to things for which the county's portion of ARP money could be used.

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