Ramsey County Recovery Plan

State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds 2021 Report

Executive Summary

The initial Recovery Plan, Project Inventory and Performance Report covers the period from the date of award to July 31, 2021.
Ramsey County will receive a total of $108 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. Ramsey County will use these funds to continue supporting individuals, families and the economy as we combat and recover from COVID-19.
These funds give Ramsey County an opportunity to direct major investments to bold, long-term initiatives that will bring lasting results. At the same time, these funds will continue to support people in crisis and address immediate needs in the community, as well as support county operations whose budgets have been stretched thin by the challenges of service delivery during a pandemic. Thus far, the county has launched a plan to invest $2.1 million on a young adult workforce development initiative, Right Track Plus, and allocated $20 million dollars to plans to create more affordable housing.
The county is working with partners, including other local governments and community organizations, and engaging with community to align our approaches, ensure efficiency and maximize our results. Additionally, Ramsey County will pursue other sources of funding, including potential federal funding and build plans to leverage those funding opportunities.
Through our open data portal, and with the Treasury’s annual Recovery Plan Performance Report, we will post up-to-date economic impacts on our residents through our ARPA projects. In addition, the portal will reflect outcome goals, progress to outcomes, and challenges and opportunities we experience in delivering these programs. We are excited about this aspect of the reporting process and the opportunity to share our impact publicly.

Use of funds

Ramsey County’s preliminary planning principles are summarized below. Among the priorities included here, some initiatives are in advanced planning stages. One initiative, Right Track Plus, has been operationalized. More information will be added as the county finalizes its plans.

Workforce Development (Right Track Plus)

Ramsey County has launched a workforce development program, Right Track Plus, which provides COVID-impacted young adults, ages 18-24, with internships and professional development opportunities. Younger workers are over-represented in service industries, which were struck hardest by restrictions on movement, activities and businesses. These impacts have been a critical disruption to young people who are launching what may be their first-ever job. Right Track Plus will help prepare young people for new careers.

Public Health Ongoing Response

In 2020, Ramsey County piloted several initiatives to ensure that diverse racial, ethnic and cultural communities are informed about COVID-19, county services and community resources during the pandemic. One such initiative is the Trusted Messenger program, which will be extended and expanded in 2021. The program enlists and works with community-based partners to share critical, up-to-date, culturally and linguistically appropriate health information and resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. ARPA funds will be allocated to hire and train dedicated staff, finalize a workplan and purchase supplies. We anticipate funding up to 21 contracts. Award amounts will vary based upon the number of participants each sub-recipient anticipates reaching. This initiative will be evaluated.

Housing Supply

The lack of affordable housing is the most significant challenge to growing prosperity in our region. A housing crisis has been building for years across Ramsey County, the Twin Cities metropolitan area and in many other regions across the nation. To address a shortage of 15,000 housing units across the county, the county will make an initial $20 million investment in 2021 and 2022 to expand the supply of affordable units. The county plans to dedicate an additional $17 million through 2026 once the county is in receipt of its full ARPA allocation. Additionally, the county will also seek to leverage federal infrastructure funds when they become available.

Racial Equity & Community Engagement

Racially and ethnically diverse communities, young people (under age 35) and people with less education are among those who have suffered the most during the pandemic. Ramsey County has prioritized racial equity and community engagement in its COVID response, to close disparities in health and economic outcomes. Funding will be allocated to initiatives that help address these disparities.
The Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team was formed in April 2020 to help inform the county's response and provide critical links between county operations and the residents we serve. The Equity Action Circle was formed in spring 2020 and consists of 15 community members representing diverse backgrounds, valuable perspectives and lived experiences. The Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team and the Equity Action Circle work closely together to co-develop strategies and solutions in partnership with the county to meet the unmet needs of residents during the COVID-19  response.
The findings of the Equity Action Circle and Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team continue to inform the county’s spending priorities. The Trusted Messengers public health messaging program will help make information and county services and resources accessible to those who need them the most. The newly formed Equity Action Circle Healthcare Committee will lead strategies for sharing public health information with the community.

Budget Priorities

As part of the ongoing 2022-2023 budget process, Ramsey County will explore additional opportunities to use ARPA funds to help maintain services without raising property taxes beyond what the community can support during a time of crisis. These opportunities may include additional support to Financial Assistance Services and justice system reform, improving the county’s IT infrastructure, and investing in new flexible work and physical space arrangements.
Ramsey County does not anticipate using ARPA funds for premium pay or water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Promoting equitable outcomes

Racially and ethnically diverse communities are among those who have suffered the most during the pandemic. Already the most economically and socially vulnerable, these groups have borne the brunt of job losses, unstable housing, and hunger. Racially and ethnically diverse communities have experienced the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and illness. Ramsey County has prioritized racial equity and community engagement in its COVID response, to close disparities in health and economic outcomes.

Workforce Development (Right Track Plus)

Racially and ethnically diverse young people have been disproportionally impacted by the economic impacts of COVID-19, including job loss, reduction of hours, deferring school and reduced wages. Due to the need to earn incomes to support themselves and their families, many young people have been pushed out of career tracks and into low-wage jobs in sectors that have limited availability for growth and opportunity. It is expected that most young adults served in the Right Track Plus program will be members of racially and ethnically diverse communities. By infusing resources, including wages and access to professional development and networks, Right Track Plus will allow young adults to enter or re-enter a career pathway that leads to increased opportunity for them, their family and their community.

Housing Supply

Many Ramsey County residents live in poverty and struggle to find or afford stable housing. Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous renters are more likely to be cost-burdened than white renters. Most Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous cost-burdened four-person households are earning less than $51,700, which equates to 50% of the area median income (AMI). The current market is not building or preserving enough affordable housing to meet the needs of these residents, including seniors, low-wage workers and others who make less than $25,000 annually. Following its Economic Competitiveness and Inclusion Plan, Ramsey County will direct its affordable housing investments across the full housing continuum, to include building generational wealth in communities that have experienced historic wealth extraction.

Community engagement

Throughout the pandemic, Ramsey County has been engaging with community in a variety of ways, including the Equity Action Circle and virtual townhall meetings, to understand residents’ current and future needs. We will continue and expand these conversations, focusing on racial equity to build a more prosperous and resilient community. Investments in community engagement and racial equity are a top priority of the county’s approach to post-pandemic recovery.

Right Track Plus

In developing the Right Track Plus initiative, Workforce Solutions consulted with community stakeholders in townhalls, focus groups and local employers on the Workforce Innovation Board. Workforce Solutions co-convenes with the Suburban Ramsey Family Collaborative and Youth Works!, which strive to improve the employment opportunities of young people. Additionally, Workforce Solutions has incorporated input from community-based organizations that participated in CARES workforce contracts. In response to this feedback, the county and its partner, the City of Saint Paul, will lead a Right Track Plus Community Team. This team will consist of staff leaders as well as representation from each of the community organizations working with the program.

Housing Supply

Ramsey County’s affordable housing initiative is informed by its Economic Competitiveness and Inclusion Plan. This plan was developed through intensive engagement with residents, businesses, community leaders and a steering committee. Community & Economic Development staff continue to work with the community, housing leaders and city partners to determine how this work should be implemented.

Racial Equity & Community Engagement

In 2020, the Racial Equity and Community Engagement Response Team hosted several virtual townhall meetings on a wide range of topics, including testing, vaccination, housing services, crisis and mental health services, emergency assistance and general assistance, employment programs and assistance, business and community restoration. County staff heard community concerns and responded to questions. Ramsey County will continue to prioritize continuous community engagement as it develops its spending priorities for ARPA funds.

Use of evidence

ARPA funding is being used for evidence-based interventions and projects will be evaluated through rigorous evaluations to build evidence. Ramsey County took this approach with evaluation of programs funded through the federal CARES Act dollars in 2020, including posting easily-accessible program summaries and financials through its open data portal. Building on that foundation, Ramsey County is forming an evaluation team for our ARPA programming as well.

Table of expenses by expenditure category

 This table reflects all expenditures through July 31, 2021.

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