Polk County's COVID-19 relief funds jumped up another $21 million last week when the county received an additional $21.8 million to provide rent and utility relief to families affected by the pandemic.
It was unclear at last week's meetings whether the funds were an unexpected windfall, but county commissioners were glad to get the money from the federal government to help families struggling with basic needs due to layoffs, business closures or other economic impacts.
“It's always nice to get that kind of money,” said Commission Chairman Rick Wilson, “and then be able to help the people of the county.”
County Manager Bill Beasley said the money would be available for distribution “in the coming weeks,” but didn't set a date for either application or disbursement.
The money augments the $126 million the county received last spring and disbursed over the summer to individuals, seniors and businesses affected by the pandemic.
So far, Polk has doled out nearly $7 million in rent and mortgage help to more than 1,900 residents, County Budget Director Todd Bond explained.
Some 2,000 applications were filed in late December when the county disbursed about $2.5 million in grant money it had received from the federal Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program.
Since taking applications, according to Bond, the county shelled out about $305,958 and the rest would help out about 750 more applicants, adding that the new money would start going to those who already filed for help and met the requirements. After those needs were met, additional applications would be taken using the county's website.
The money is being funneled through existing nonprofit organizations such as United Way and the funds are paid directly to the landlord, mortgage lender or utility company.
Also last week, the county board okayed an ad valorem tax abatement plan for Agri-Iron, a company that manufactures a type of fertilizer pellet for use in agriculture — but not without one dissenting vote.
Commissioner Neil Combee opposed approving the plan, which would relieve Agra-Iron of about half of its annual county tax bill, to the tune of about $47,000 a year for 10 years.
“I have always been against this since I was on the board before — and when I was in the state legislature,” Combee said. “I do congratulate Agra-Iron on their expansion, but I've been against this idea for years.”
Agra-Iron plans to upgrade its property at 2511 Bonnie Mine Road to accommodate increased production of agricultural enhancement products and it is also expected to create a number of additional jobs.
Commissioner George Lindsey said the county is expected to run like a business and businesses offer discounts to customers over time.
“This tax advantage is also available to any business in Polk County that expands, and this is a good way to encourage that kind of growth,” he said.
The board's final tally was 4-1 with Combee the lone dissenter.