PITTSFIELD — The city has received the first of its payments from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act, and is ready to begin the process of deciding how to spend it.
The first installment totaling $16.2 million arrived in city coffers last month, and is half of the $32.4 million in ARPA funding awarded to the city.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime infusion of funds that could have a significant, meaningful impact on the future of our city,” Mayor Linda Tyer said Friday.
Tyer said she plans to put together an advisory council of “community members, business leaders, nonprofit leaders, community activists” and possibly a City Councilor to oversee how the money is spent. Tyer, in a memo to the City Council, which will be asked to accept the money at its meeting on Tuesday, told councilors she “welcomed” their recommendations for who should serve on the council.
“I will be looking for a very diverse group of people that represent all different stakeholders,” she said. The city is also planning to survey the community on how residents would like to see the funding spent this summer.
Tyer said her office has worked with “key” department heads to understand the more than 200 pages of federal spending guidance and how the city can spend the funding.
According to Tyer, the federal guidelines allow ARPA money to be spent in seven areas: Supporting public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic; addressing pandemic-caused impacts in the realms of tourism, travel, hospitality and cultural the economy; serving the hardest-hit neighborhoods and families with the Morningside and Westside based on census tract data; replacing lost public-sector revenue; providing “premium pay” for low-income essential workers; investing in water and sewer infrastructure projects; investing in broadband infrastructure in underserved areas.
“The federal guidelines very clearly articulate that the emphasis should be placed on the hardest-hit neighborhoods, and the hardest-hit communities, and hardest-hit people,” Tyer said.
The money, said Tyer, cannot be spent on things like offsetting tax reductions, filling pension funds, making legal settlements or matching grants awarded to the city through other federal programs.
The ARPA funding is separate from the several million in COVID-19 recovery grants distributed to the Pittsfield Public Schools. Tyer said federal rules require the money must be encumbered by 2024, and spent by 2026.
As of now, “we haven’t spent $1” of the American Rescue Plan Act money, said Tyer. “And we’re quite a ways away from that. I would say, we won’t be seeing expenditures until the fall, based upon the community survey that we want to conduct, the other kinds of stakeholder engagement that we want to participate in. So we’re talking about the rest of the summer, really, to do that and to do it right.”
“What we’re doing now is laying the foundation for how this will play out over the course of these next few years,” she added.