On Tuesday, August 3, 2021, Olmsted County commissioners approved a plan to spend $19,960,000 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act state and local recovery dollars. The remaining almost $11 million of the county’s total award of almost $31 million will be reviewed and allocated in the spring of 2022.
The most significant use of the funds, totaling $16.1 million, will provide unprecedented support for affordable housing infrastructure and programs in Olmsted County. Specifically, it will fund:
- The county’s portion ($10 million) of the Rochester Area Foundation’s request for a five-year investment in affordable housing to create and preserve more than 1,100 affordable housing units in Olmsted County and leverage an investment of more than $200 million. The Foundation’s full proposal is based on a 2020 Maxfield Research housing needs analysis and calls for a $25 million local affordable housing investment to meet the housing needs of Olmsted County for the next decade.
- A $5 million investment to create affordable homeownership opportunities through a new program to be developed by Olmsted County. The new program will incentivize the addition to the affordable housing stock in the county.
- Purchase of the building at 105 Broadway Avenue N. in Rochester to continue providing transitional housing to homeless individuals. The $1 million allocation will cover about half of the anticipated purchase cost. Housing and Redevelopment Authority reserves will fund the remainder.
- Repairs to the Rochester Community Warming Center totaling $100,000. This facility is owned by Olmsted County and operated by Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota.
“Affordable and diverse housing opportunities have long been an important priority for Olmsted County and our residents,” according to Olmsted County Board Chair Stephanie Podulke. “We have heard from the community that we need to focus on this area. These funds, and our prioritization of them, are essential steps in the right direction.”
More information about the county’s recent and ongoing housing priorities can be found in an Olmsted County press release issued July 29, 2021.
In addition to housing, the remaining $3.9 million approved on Tuesday will fund various other Olmsted County priorities based on internal needs assessments and conversations with community partners. These include:
- A proposal from Workforce Development, Inc. to support developing pathways to careers in local government totaling $420,000. This program development has been underway for several years but has lacked consistent funding. It will provide job training and support for individuals interested in positions in local government that have traditionally been hard to fill.
- A trained social worker liaison from the county to work with all the school districts in Olmsted County for truancy prevention. This is a one-year provisional FTE for $120,000. This need was supported by recent data from a COVID-19 impact survey sent countywide and through discussions with school partners regarding truancy and mental health concerns for children in K-12 schools.
- Funding of $1.2 million to complete the new nature center at Oxbow Park. The Oxbow Park nature center project cost is approximately $7.5 million and has already received $2.33 million from the state’s Parks and Trails Legacy Fund. Olmsted County had previously committed to investing $3.5 million.
- Chester Heights Sewer District funding of $500,000 for key upgrades and improvements.
- Technology projects within Health, Housing, and Human Services at the county that will support interoperability, automation, conversion of paper to electronic processes, and access to data and ease of use for clients. These projects total $1 million.
- Additional hours totaling $120,000 for school nurses to prepare for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year after being deployed to the pandemic for 18 months.
- Provisional staffing for the County Attorney’s Office totaling $500,000 to assist with the backlog of court cases in the system.
“These federal funds are being used effectively to meet immediate recovery needs and long-term priorities that will help us better serve residents of Olmsted County. I am proud of the thoughtful consideration, prioritization, and timely action by our board to allocate these funds,” said Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch.
Timelines and specific plans for implementing each item approved by the board of commissioners will be forthcoming.