Congressman John Larson and Bristol city discuss importance of American Rescue Plan funds for municipalities and education

Published on Saturday, 13 March 2021 16:33
Written by Catherine Shen


BRISTOL – The city of Bristol is set to receive millions from the American Rescue Plan, with funds slated for both municipal and education uses.

Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said they expect to receive about $17 million for the city and the Board of Education is receiving about $19 million. While the framework on how the monies could be spent are still emerging, the mayor said she is just thankful to see some much-needed relief.

“We’ve already been planning for this so once we receive the funds, we can hit the ground running,” she said.

Zoppo-Sassu was joined by Congressman John Larson, BOE Superintendent Dr. Catherine Carbone, Water and Sewer Superintendent Robert Longo, and Economic and Community Development Director Justin Malley, along with various members from City Council, City Hall, and law enforcement for a news conference on Saturday to make the official announcement of the city receiving funds from the American Rescue Plan.

Standing against the backdrop that was the city’s Public Works Yard, Larson said during the process of reviewing and approving the plan at the federal level, everyone understood the scope of the issue and the importance of getting funds to the people, especially for essential service and frontline workers.

“I’ve been an elected official in various capacities and I’ve never faced a crisis like this before,” he said. “The depth in which what the people have endured has been great, which is why this plan is so crucial.”

Connecticut will be receiving just over $4 billion from the federal stimulus package, which will provide support for over 5 million households, according to the congressman. He said during the long hours of testimony, the main theme was “to not short sell municipalities, cities, towns, and healthcare providers.”

“To get back to normal will take a lot of extra effort by the people and the community to help their neighbors,” said Larson. “And with the funds, this shows how government should work to get the money to where it should go.”

Funding for towns and cities will be distributed in a modified Community Development Block Grant formula with entitlement cities, those with a population over 50,000, receiving funding directly from the Treasury Department and non-entitlement towns, those with a population under 50,000, distributed by the state as a passthrough, according to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. Local cities such as Hartford will be receiving about $93 million for municipality use and New Britain is expected to get about $43 million for the same use.

For Bristol, priorities for the funds will depend on the spending parameters. But because the city has been planning for this moment, Zoppo-Sassu said they already have a project list that is ready to go, with goals such as backfilling the city’s investment income, revenue from rental and program fees, helping small businesses, continuing to bridge the digital divide, and supporting the Public Works Department.

“Especially with more people working from home, we need to build up our infrastructure to support that,” she said.

On the anniversary of the first shutdown, about 60% of Bristol seniors have been vaccinated, all city staff have received vaccinations, and teachers are getting their second dosage.

Ted Shafer, First Selectman of Burlington, said he looked at this day as a celebration of renewal and a day of optimism.

“We’ve been in this pandemic for so long and we appreciate all the effort that went into this,” he said.

Burlington is set to receive about $960,000 for municipal use and $659,000 for the school system. Some priorities include making sure vaccinations are being provided, senior and family services are accessible, and supporting small businesses.

“We hope to come back stronger after this,” he said.

The Bristol-Burlington Health District has been going nonstop since the start of the pandemic and Director of Health Marco Palmeri said staff has been doing what they can to make sure people are safe.

“This is what we do and everyone has been amazing,” he said. “I’m nothing without a great team and our success is based on our partnerships.”

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Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General Business, General News on Saturday, 13 March 2021 16:33. Updated: Saturday, 13 March 2021 16:35.