The last two years have been busy for Spokane County.
Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns delivered a virtual, pre-recorded State of the County address Thursday that highlighted a long list of the county’s accomplishments during the coronavirus pandemic.
He started off with an explanation of how the county used its $91 million in funding from the CARES Act, which Congress passed to provide emergency funding to a wide range of organizations. Spokane County received $91 million thanks to the $2.2 trillion bill.
Those dollars ended up all over the county.
Some of the county’s CARES Act allotment went to the Spokane Regional Health District. Second Harvest, a nonprofit that provides food to food banks, received $9 million.
The county sent $3 million to Spokane to help pay for homeless facilities. Local businesses got $10 million. Public schools used some of the money to adapt to teaching during the pandemic. Fire districts used CARES Act money to pay for new equipment. Three million dollars went toward child care.
Now, the county is figuring out how it will distribute the $100 million it will receive from the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9-trillion economic stimulus bill Congress passed in March. Spokane County will get its American Rescue Plan money in two $50-million installments, one of which has already arrived, with another coming in 2022.
The county commissioners will have to decide how to allocate the money by December 2024, and the money has to be spent by 2026.
“We are looking for ways to get a strong multiplier effect and get a strong bang for our buck with this money,” Kerns said.
Kerns encouraged residents to reach out with ideas for how to spend the American Rescue Plan money.
In addition to highlighting the county’s role in distributing COVID-19 funds, Kerns ran through a list of several major projects that have wrapped up in the county since 2020.
The Spokane Regional Stabilization Center, a joint effort with the city, is a highlight, Kerns said. The facility offers beds for individuals experiencing mental health and addiction issues. It’s essentially a place where people about to be booked, or those escorted to the center by police, can stay to recover instead of being sent to jail or emergency rooms.
“This will be a game-changer for our local law enforcement,” Kerns said.
The county also opened an intake and release center. That facility allows law enforcement to quickly book and release nonviolent offenders.
Despite the pandemic, the county has made big economic strides, Kerns said.
He pointed to the new Amazon facility in Spokane Valley as a major driver of economic development.
The Podium, a new indoor track facility opening soon, will attract some of the best track and field athletes in the world, Kerns said. The county’s renovations at the Northside Aquatic Center at Bidwell Park were good, too.
“This is an absolute gem for our community,” Kerns said.
Kerns also touted the county’s sale of the Spokane Raceway to the Kalispel Tribe of Indians for $6.1 million.
“The county should have never been in the business of racing,” Kerns said. “We are glad to see the Kalispel tribe will continue to operate this facility as a track.
“There are big things happening in Spokane County,” he said. “This is why we see more and more people choosing to call this place home.”