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Minnesota officials spent more of the federal aid on housing than their counterparts elsewhere, according to a new website that illuminates how city and county officials plan to spend pandemic relief dollars.

The MSP ARPA Tracker, built by the Greater MSP Partnership economic development agency, documents how 29 metro-area counties and cities plan to use $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds sent as part of the federal government's response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The website reveals local priorities, showing how officials here have plowed more aid dollars into housing than has been done nationwide.

"This tracker is a win for government transparency, as it shows us what our governments are doing with this significant influx of funds," said Peter Frosch, president and chief executive of the Greater MSP Partnership.

The American Rescue Plan Act sent $350 billion in 2021 to prop up local and county governments hit by massive tax revenue losses during the pandemic. Unlike the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in 2020, the ARPA funds do not need to be spent immediately, and instead are meant to foster deliberate and well-planned investments guided by local officials.

The American Rescue Plan Act was one of the largest stimulus packages in U.S. history, but with many decisions being made at the local level, it's been more difficult to know just what, exactly, taxpayers will get from these funds.

The ARPA Tracker shows that by March 15 of this year, metro-area governments had made 363 investments amounting to 64% of the ARPA aid. About half of the cities and counties have decided how to spend their money, while three cities have spent almost none of it so far.

"All of our funds have now been allocated," said Dushani Dye, Minneapolis' chief financial officer. She said people asked early on how the money would get spent, but the questions have diminished both because the city has made its plans and because it built a website of its own showing how it planned to use the money.

The city plans to use $47 million of its $271 million aid package to replace lost tax revenue, according to the ARPA Tracker. Another $9.6 million will be used on affordable housing projects.

The website's data were gathered city by city, county by county, and then followed up and validated, said Amanda Taylor, Greater MSP's vice president for research and intelligence. The big finding, she said, "is this focused investment on housing."

Housing was the second largest recipient of ARPA funds in the metro, behind only government operations, according to the Greater MSP website. Some 25% of all funds, or about $193 million so far, has been dedicated to housing, with much of it going to affordable housing projects. Nationally, the figure has been around 8.6%, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution.

Government operations, which ranged from new construction to salaries, was about 32% of metro ARPA spending. Other local priorities were health care programs and economic development, both about 12% of the funds, and infrastructure spending about 10%.

The latest affordable housing project to get approval locally may have been in Washington County, which just gave the green light Tuesday to a $7.5 million proposal. The county is still searching for a site but has been looking in Woodbury and Oakdale, said Washington County Administrator Kevin Corbid.

He was among the county officials who worked with Greater MSP as it built the ARPA Tracker, following along as cities and counties reported how they planned to spend the money.

"It's been interesting to see what people have been using it for," Corbid said.