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ARPA funds to be spent on RAD cards, speed trailers

Members of the Ceres City Council on Monday approved resolutions to spend federal ARPA funds on two different projects.

The council OK’d allocating $200,000 for the Ceres RAD Card Program and up to $50,000 to buy three new speed trailers designed to get motorists to slow down.

RAD stands for Relief Across Downtown and was a program born out of the pandemic designed to give consumers more purchasing power at participating small, locally owned businesses. RAD Card is a digital gift card involving the use of a mobile phone app whereby a customer may buy a card in denominations of $25, $50, $75 or $100 through the app, which is then doubled in purchasing power. The most one person can spend is $200. The added value comes from federal CARE Act funds that were allocated to Stanislaus County.

When the program was rolled out in 2020, the RAD program was initially for only downtown merchants but has since been expanded to all businesses in Ceres that are not part of a national chain or franchise.

The first allocation of $100,000 will fund the RAD Card program immediately. City staff will monitor the fund balance on a regular basis and once there is less than $10,000 remaining, the city will replenish it with another $100,000.

The city believes the program will generate more shopping in Ceres to help consumers, businesses, and the city in increased sales taxes.

The RAD Card program is administered by Downtown Modesto Partnership, which charges Ceres an 11.5% administration fee for participating. The cost comes to $23,000 of the $200,000 contribution.

Speed trailers

The council approved the use of up to $50,000 to buy three speed radar trailers for a cost of $27,310 from Applied Concepts, Inc./Stalker Radar.

Ceres Police Department’s two trailers are 10 years old and will become obsolete due to the unavailability of parts and lack of service to maintain or repair them. At least one trailer is in constant use in neighborhoods in response to citizen complaints about speeding. Having three additional trailers will allow the Traffic Unit to respond to more online requests for a speed trailer.

In March the Ceres City Council held a lengthy discussion about ways to spend $5.8 million in the second round of federal COVID-19 relief money.

Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) in March 2021 which established the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The fund helps cities, counties and states with the pandemic recovery assistance and some kinds of infrastructure investment.  The funds must be committed by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Ceres received $5.8 million last July and will get another $5.8 million this coming July. The U.S. Treasury Department outlined how the ARPA funds may be spent, including offering premium pay for workers performing essential work, replacing lost revenue; for programs, services or capital expenditures that respond to the public health and negative economic impact of the pandemic; to mitigate and prevent COVID; and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.