Progress was made this past month in terms of how the City will be distributing the $28 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. The 15-member task force selected UHY as the consultant to assist with the eligibility review, reporting and project monitoring over the next 5 years. Jack Reagan and Stacy Farber will be working with the Task Force and City staff to ensure that all is in compliance moving forward.
As discussed earlier, the funds may be spent:
1) To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;
2) To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID–19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;
3) For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and
4) To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
To date, the City has allocated $10,000 to the Community Services division under the Assistance to Households guidelines to help families with one-time expenses and $50,000 to the Health District for response to the public health emergency.
The role of the UHY consultants, which is the third expense to be paid for from these ARPA funds ($157,020), will be twofold. First, they will assist the task force in creating the parameters of where the money will have the most impact. We have discussed assisting eligible City projects, which would decrease the amount of city tax dollars or bonded dollars; assistance to businesses adversely affected; and support for the non-profit organizations providing critical services. Upon review, it does not appear that the City would qualify to recoup lost revenue as listed in the third bullet above due to the strong financial foundation that the City has at this time.
In broad terms, the task force needs to first come up with a strategy where there is a list of appropriate uses. Then, once the projects are approved, there needs to be continuous monitoring of both the financial and non-financial performance indicators so that the City can file the federal reports. And finally, the task force will need to be transparent in reporting back to the taxpayers how the money has been used.
In order to determine eligibility for the first steps, UHY will create an informational webinar that people can utilize to learn more about how to apply. There will then be an online portal where projects can be submitted so eligibility may be assessed. A small project description of no more than 250 words will help assign the project to one of the eligible categories. Members of the task force, stakeholders and City departments will work to “put the word out” via the media and various networks like the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Main Street Community Foundation and others to ensure all businesses, non-profits and other entities are aware of the opportunity.
Certain projects will be evaluated using program evaluations designed to have an impact in the areas of public health, negative economic impacts and services to disproportionately impacted communities. Some examples of successful programs are those that will have an impact to help those affected by Covid due to health disparities or existing inequities such as a geographic area or social vulnerability. Another area of interest would be programs that mitigate impact of pandemic-related recession on households, low-wage earners, food insecurity, housing issues, access to child care, and job training. Assistance to businesses that were affected by covid are also eligible to apply.
There is also interest in using these dollars for one-time investments to have a transformative effect on the City. Could we gain more direct access to the Pequabuck River along Park Street? Could we create bike trails that were a top priority in the Parks Department’s recent Master Plan survey?
Inquiries to date have included projects such as the Accessible Trail at Barnes Nature Center, outside activities at the Senior Center, additional programs at St. Vincent DePaul, a redundant air circulating system at Bristol Health, construction/remodeling for outdoor dining at restaurants, outdoor playground at the Boys & Girls Club and workforce entry programs for the trades and manufacturing to name a few. Anyone who is interested in receiving more information on this should email the Mayorsoffice@bristolct.gov.
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu is the mayor of Bristol.