Township board discusses ways to spend federal stimulus funds

FLUSHING TWP. — With a little over $1 million in COVID-19 relief coming soon, Flushing Township is attempting to pinpoint the best ways to utilize the funding in its jurisdiction.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Supervisor Fred Thorsby and the Board of Trustees discussed spending options for the township’s latest round of federal stimulus money, which is coming from the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress in March. Flushing Township is set to receive between $1.1 and $1.2 million in stimulus funds in a couple of payments, with the first payment expected to arrive sometime next month.

Thorsby said that Flushing Township’s spending options appear to be limited, given the regulations that are tied to the federal stimulus funds.

“As of now, the rules are vague and pretty thin, but we are hoping they will become clearer when we get the actual funding,” he said.

According to the Michigan Townships Association, municipalities and townships can use stimulus funds for these purposes:

–Responding to the public health emergency of COVID-19 or the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries like tourism, travel and hospitality.

–Supporting essential workers by providing premium pay to eligible workers or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work. Premium pay is up to $13/hour on top of regular wages; with a cap of $25,000 for each individual eligible worker.

–Supplementing revenue loss from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

–Investing in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Stimulus funds cannot be used by municipalities or townships to offset tax cuts or delay the imposition of any tax or tax increase, or to use as a deposit to a pension fund.

Thorsby said that the township is currently leaning toward using the funds for broadband upgrades and will be hiring a consultant to explore available federal broadband project grants. He also said that water or sewer improvement projects would be too expensive to pursue with the stimulus funds.

Additionally, Thorsby said that funding stimulus regulations don’t seem to be compatible with road improvements.

“While it would be a great idea to use money for that, we’ve been cautioned not to use the funds for road improvement because the federal government is supposed to be coming out with another stimulus targeting road projects,” he said. “It’s our understanding that none of this (current) money should be spent toward roads or infrastructure.”

Thorsby said that the township will schedule a public hearing at either next month’s meeting or at the June board meeting to gather public input on how the township should spend its federal stimulus money.