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PimaRecovers.com site tracks county's COVID relief spending

Pima County has launched a website to publish how federal COVID relief has been spent during the pandemic. PimaRecovers.com details the use of more than $300 million, including for eviction relief.

The latest update of the "transparency website," as officials have billed it, details the use of almost $300 million and was made live on Tuesday.

The site will publish data, reports and stories about how federal COVID relief funds have been spent by the county.

Most of the federal pandemic relief to Pima County, about $203 million, came from the American Rescue Plan Act in early 2021. The CARES Act, which was the first COVID relief package, delivered more than $87 million to the county.

The new website breaks down most of the spending into four categories — public health, eviction prevention, economic recovery and infrastructure — and has data and graphs for each. This includes tables that show how much the county budgeted for line items like "Contact Tracing Supplies and Services" for $22 million or "Pima Early Education Program — Free Preschool" for almost $16 million in COVID relief funds.

The website also shows what portion of the county’s total relief spending has gone to each of those four categories. Most of it — 68% or almost $199 million — has gone towards public health efforts like $35 million for the Northwest Service Center; $32 million for county employee pandemic leave and $25 million for COVID testing.

Economic recovery projects like job training programs, industry-specific COVID relief grants and PEEPS, the free preschool program, made up 24% of spending, which was about $17 million. The category included a variety of expenses like "Kino Stadium District Parking" for $3 million and "Food Security Programs" for $1.8 million.

Eviction prevention received 5% of COVID relief spending, or almost $14 million. Most of that — about $7.7 million — went to foreclosure, eviction and utilities assistance. More than $4 million went to emergency housing and eviction legal services.

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The county spent $9 million on infrastructure projects, which was about 3% of spending. This was for five projects that upgraded digital infrastructure like security for the county’s remote workforce, other software security, networks and broadband.

The website also features a transparency dashboard similar to the county and state COVID dashboards that track infections, deaths and vaccinations related to the virus. The dashboard shows spending through graphs and tables that can be filtered according program names and types.

The county has awarded almost $291 million through grants, according to the transparency dashboard, though they also report $160 million left in remaining funds. All of the CARES funding has been spent, leaving only the ARPA funds that are meant to last until 2025.

The website was built in-house by the county on a WordPress platform. The county hired a project manager with an $80,000 salary to manage the website content for the next three years, county officials said. The salary is paid with ARPA funds. The only other hard costs are the domain registration fee and hosting, which are a few hundred dollars.

Other counties could see the website as a model for financial transparency, said Jan Lesher, the acting county administrator. She expects the website to allow the public to “drill down to specific spending, see who received the funding and a description of how it was used for the public benefit.”

“They will be able to track every penny we've received and spent for COVID-19 relief," she said in a county statement. “The COVID relief acts were truly a lifeline for our community, and it's important for the county to be completely transparent about how it has used or is using these large grants."

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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