Thanks to President Biden's leadership we are set to address even more of the many needs of Shelby County residents hit hard by the COVID-19 global pandemic. In March, President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. This historic legislation was designed to help communities recover from the dual health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
Here in Shelby County, we produced a spending plan that will allow us to continue programs already in place, add new ones, and bolster organizations that stepped up over the last year. After a great deal of collaboration with the County Commission, our plan passed with strong bipartisan support. There is so much we will accomplish with these new resources. Here are just a few of the highlights.
Few institutions have been stretched to capacity like our local hospitals. Tallies were kept for public and private hospitals on available ICU beds and there were fears about hospitals reaching capacity. Shelby County Government is investing $19.1 million in Regional One and over $9 million for other local hospitals using federal dollars.
Shortly after the pandemic hit, we saw long lines of cars at food pantries across Shelby County. Residents who lost jobs still needed to feed their families. Since then, the Mid-South Food Bank has seen contributions decline, while the need grew exponentially. The $3 million in ARPA funds allotted to the Mid-South Food Bank will provide nine million meals.
In addition, we recently presented a $460,000 check to the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County, the only non-municipal animal shelter in the county. During the pandemic, the Humane Society saw a 136% increase in owner surrenders. The intake of stray animals rose by 37.5%. The Humane Society also aids with injured animal care and is where the municipal animal shelters turn to relieve overcrowding. This money will help shelter animals, support a new low-cost clinic, and provide owner support services when families fear they can no longer afford their pet.
The Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County was one of the first local organizations to receive federal ARPA funds.
Additionally, we have provided $2 million for property tax relief for the elderly, disabled, and disabled veterans. This provides matching funds to expand a state tax relief program. It will raise the average the maximum amount of tax relief from approximately $250 to $500 for seniors and disabled residents. For disabled veterans, that amount increases from about $1,500 to $3,000. Last year, more than 8,100 residents received tax relief through this program. It is expected that with the County’s matching program, even more will apply.
Meanwhile, the economic challenges caused by the pandemic created difficulties throughout our county. For that reason, we included a $3 million allotment for transitional housing for residents experiencing homeless. And we also provided funding so that World Relief Memphis could buy beds for the Afghan refugees who recently arrived in Shelby County.
It's no secret that the recruitment of employees for essential public safety jobs has been difficult in Shelby County and across the nation. With ARPA money, the county will invest in recruitment incentives for county law enforcement personnel, including officers for the Division of Corrections and deputy sheriffs. In addition, we now have the resources to double the capacity of our mental health court, which will help give those with mental illnesses the support they need to get well and stay out of the criminal justice system.
Over the last 21 months, the COVID pandemic battered us all and strained local governments. These new federal dollars afford us the resources we need to move forward, bolster our communities, and continue our recovery.
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