The federal stimulus package, which is slated to enter law this week and will provide more than $ 2.6 billion to Connecticut cities, is welcomed by leaders in the Danbury area, though some details, including how the funds will be spent are still unclear.
The US House of Representatives was ready on Wednesday to pass the American Rescue Plan bill, expected to be signed by President Joe Biden. In addition to helping towns and cities, the bill includes short-term reviews for many across the country, as well as funding for unemployment.
The funds for the local communities come as local leaders try to set their city budgets for the fiscal year. Many had spent funding on unexpected COVID-19 pandemic costs in the past year, including Bethel, which was spending an estimated $ 1 million on plastic barriers for the schools and community center, coupons for non-internet students, and part-time workers for staff at The COVID Vaccination Clinic, said First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker. The estimate does not necessarily take into account any deficits local cities had on the revenue side – due to permits, taxes, or other fees that the city charges.
Bethel officials are expecting $ 9.89 million for the city and schools between the package, which is expected to be approved on Tuesday, and a package, which will be approved in December and linked to the pandemic.
“I was thrilled to see recognition that this pandemic, while affecting the federal government, has also severely disrupted state and local funding,” he said. “We had to redirect resources to do other things as well.”
In Danbury, the city is getting roughly $ 71 million from this stimulus package and from last year. Mayor Joe Cavo said the funds were “unexpected and would certainly be welcome here”.
“I spoke to [city Director of Finance] David St. Hilaire on the money and the share the school gets, and I’m fiscal conservative when it comes to money, ”said Cavo. “We want to make sure we don’t go on a shopping spree that brings us to a money cliff that an administration falls from four years later.”
In Newtown, the combined money from the December package and the American rescue plan is expected to be $ 10 million – of which $ 1.9 million is earmarked for schools.
The city’s chief financial officer said his office was awaiting clarification from Washington, DC
“We heard a few different numbers,” said Robert Tait, Newtown’s finance director. “We have not yet received any instructions on how to output it.”
Newtown will be better able to plan once the government releases guidelines, Tait said
Lots of guidelines
With the bill not officially approved by Tuesday, the guidelines for spending remain unclear. Most guides waited to see how to spend it.
“Surely this money” will “come with a lot of federal guidelines that we can’t use on debt or pension obligations, so we’ll have to see how best to use it when it finally comes in,” said Cavo.
“I will definitely encourage the school board to do the same,” added Cavo. “You will have college expenses in a few years, and I would like to see you use that money for a one-off expense.”
Cavo will endeavor to support local businesses and other groups whenever possible.
In New Milford, schools are expected to receive approximately $ 11 million in grants, while the city is expected to receive approximately $ 7.9 million for a total of $ 18.9 million.
New Milford, expected to receive nearly $ 19 million from the federal government through two stimulus programs, is “grateful for the additional funding,” said Mayor Pete Bass. He intends to use the funds for one-off purposes, including the capital improvement budget.
One of the city’s main projects is to improve and update the city’s infrastructure. That could mean using the funds to build school roofs and work on some of the city’s 60+ bridges. After the incentive is complete, the mayor plans to sit down with various department heads to discuss which projects should have priority. These plans are then submitted to the city council and tax authorities for approval.
Bass said the additional funding would reduce the impact of future tax increases.
Although the city hadn’t yet made plans for the state funding, Bass said the increase “would definitely be welcome to help us get back on some of the projects that are urgently needed here in New Milford.”
“I think people are taking a wait and see attitude,” he said. “I know we’re just waiting on the city side to see if it comes to fruition.”
New Fairfield will receive $ 7.97 million between the two packages, with the amounts roughly split between the city and schools.
“I think there has been a financial impact on the city,” said First Selectwoman Pat Del Monaco. “That’s an appropriate number and we are grateful for that number.”
New Fairfield may use the money on some items of capital but is waiting for guidance from the federal government before deciding how the city would spend the funds.
“Without federal guidance, I don’t want to try to guess what we could possibly use that for,” said Del Monaco.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities – a non-partisan organization that supports cities – told leaders on a morning Zoom appeal that the money could likely be spent on lost revenue, unbudgeted COVID-19 spending, and some capital and infrastructure costs, it said Del Monaco.
If allowed, Bethel can provide grants to local companies or sponsored children who suffer from poor socialization to go to summer camps, Knickerbocker said.
“I base plans on the assumption that these funds will be as flexible as possible,” he said.
In Brookfield, First Selectman Steve Dunn said the city and schools would definitely be able to use the federal funds, but they are waiting to see the rules and regulations before deciding which projects to tackle.
“We have a general idea, but not enough to say that this is the case, it is not,” he said. “I need to know what I can use it for first.”
In Dunn there were “literally dozens of things” that the city used the funds for.
“The devil is in the details,” he said of the rules and regulations that govern how that money is used.