ARPA hearing

Mayor Linda Tyer tells residents she's committed to creating a seven to nine person advisory committee to help "narrow the focus" for potential uses of federal coronavirus aid money after a community conversation wrap-up later this week.

PITTSFIELD — Residents have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to fill out the citywide survey that will let city officials know how Pittsfield should spend more than $40 million in federal coronavirus relief money.

The survey, created by the city on Aug. 5, asks residents to weigh in on how to spend money the city received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act — the federal program created in March to help soften the economic impact of the pandemic. Pittsfield has received $20.3 million to date and is scheduled to receive the final $20.3 million in aid next summer.

City officials said they’ve received over 900 responses — about 2 percent of the city’s population — to the survey to date.

“The more the better,” Mayor Linda Tyer said following the community forum on potential tourism and cultural sources for ARPA funds last week. “[The survey] really helps us understand community sentiment and helps guide and narrow our focus.”

The survey, which is available in Spanish and English, asks residents to arrange a list of potential public health, business assistance, household assistance, human services, infrastructure and public facility projects in order of need.

The question categories mirror guidance from the Treasury Department over acceptable uses of ARPA funds.

Cities can use the federal money in seven general areas: to cover the cost of public health programs that attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, address the economic impacts of the pandemic, provide assistance to disproportionately affected communities, provide premium pay to low income essential workers, invest in water and sewer infrastructure, offset a loss of city revenue from the pandemic and invest in greater broadband infrastructure.

In Pittsfield, city officials identified the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods as the disproportionately impacted neighborhoods eligible for additional support.

City forums over the last two weeks have created a long list of potential needs from additional mental health supports, expanded child care options for working families, stronger workforce training opportunities and direct stimulus payments to residents.

Tyer committed to continue the discussion around potential projects with the creation of a seven- to nine-person advisory committee. Representatives from the mayor’s office said Monday that the process for selecting members for the committee is still under discussion and that the committee will be formed in the coming weeks.

The city has until Dec. 31, 2024, to decide where the money will go and until Dec. 31, 2026 to have the money spent. The first of several quarterly reports on how the city plans to spend the money is due to the Treasury Department on Tuesday.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413- 496-6149.