The American Rescue Plan Act’s passage marked a historic federal stimulus effort to help the nation recover from the coronavirus crisis. Now, like many communities across the country, it is Pittsfield’s turn to make decisions about how to put the strongest foot forward on the road to recovery.
The first of two deposits that will total $32.4 million recently arrived in municipal coffers — what Mayor Linda Tyer calls “a once-in-a-lifetime infusion of funds that could have a significant, meaningful impact on the future of our city.” Fortunately, city officials appear to be considering the use of these funds with the forethought it deserves. Mayor Tyer said she is working with city government department heads to assess federal spending guidance on how the money can be used. Those 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.
This is indeed a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, and the city must think carefully and strategically about the application of this one-time windfall. Luckily, there is plenty of time, as the spending deadline for the ARPA funds is not until 2026. The mayor has said that even though the money is already partially in hand, none of it has been spent and will not be until the fall at the earliest — plenty of time to begin developing a sound spending plan. The mayor also plans to convene an advisory council with a diverse array of stakeholders including business and nonprofit leaders, local activists and municipal officials.
Ensuring the community is broadly represented at the decision-making table is a great thing — and The Eagle wants to do its part in fostering that conversation. Many Pittsfield residents likely have strong and varied opinions about what this money can be put toward, and we want to hear them and give space for the community to weigh these ideas in the public square. Submit your ideas via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Pittsfield ARPA funds.” Please keep submissions to 200 or fewer words; these will not count against The Eagle’s one letter per month rule.
The deadline for submissions is Thursday, July 22. Soon after, we’ll publish a collection of the submissions in the Opinion pages and on The Eagle’s website to help get the community’s creative juices flowing on how Pittsfield can best seize this momentous opportunity to shape our future. The coming decisions about how to spend this pot of money will affect all residents for years to come. As such, anyone who wants to have their voice heard on the matter should. We welcome the chance to help our neighbors do just that. Let us, and your fellow Pittsfield residents, know what you think.