Arlington eyes estimated $36.8M via rescue plan

Schools could get $1M via Title I; spending priorities await clearer direction

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UPDATED, March 25: Arlington officials await final numbers for its share of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, but so far, the town's share is estimated to be almost $36.8 million. The public schools may get a little over $1 million.Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

That projection comes from a March 12 analysis of the national Covid-19 relief plan the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the nonprofit representing 351 cities and towns in the commonwealth. Read it here >> Within that analysis are these numbers >> 

“This gives us an opportunity to provide long-lasting benefits to Arlington," Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine told the Select Board Monday, March 15. "We’re aware only of broad categories, and await news from the federal level. We need to make sure we don’t spend it too quickly, and we’ll have more discussions.” 

Board member Diane Mahon said, “We need to understand what we can spend this money on,” such as Covid relief, schools and small businesses. 

“This $36 million doesn’t mean we have to spend it all next year. We want a long-range plan to see Arlington through to the future, to mitigate any future overrides,” added Mahon.

Chapdelaine said he and others are "still working to learn more about allocations and perhaps more importantly, how the funds will be allowed to be used. I have learned that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is actively working on the eventual guidance that will be issued to local governments after the President signs the bill."

Meanwhile, Republican attorneys general from 21 states are questioning a provision in the $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue plan that bars states from using its funds to offset tax cuts. For more, see an Associated Press report via US News >>

"I hope to learn more in the upcoming days and will certainly share more as I learn it. On the whole though, the passage of the Rescue Plan portends to be very beneficial to Arlington in the coming years."

Bodie comments

Superintendent Kathleen Bodie has been asked the estimated amount of school funding expected from the rescue plan, signed by President Biden. She responded March 17 that the amount of funds to school districts from the rescue plan will be determined by the Title 1 formula. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) estimates that the grant amount to districts is expected to be a little over $1 million.

"At this time, we have not received notification of the amount of the [rescue plan] grant allocation from DESE, nor do I know the timeline for notification," she wrote.

Arlington previously received $504,000 under ESSER II coronavirus funding and has been told to expect twice that. 

Before knowing how the final allocation will be spent, Chapdelaine, in an email to YourArlington last week, pointed to the plan's enabling legislation. Potential can come in these areas, he said: 

  • Responding to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality;
  • Premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors as determined by the chief executive officer as critical to protect the health and well-being of the residents of the local government (capped at $13 per hour);
  • Replacing revenue reductions due to the pandemic, to the extent that these revenues are used to provide services (the base year to determine revenue losses is fiscal 2019) (the Treasury Department's guidance will be needed to fully understand this); and
  • Necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
  • "However, we are still awaiting more detailed guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to better understand how we can utilize the funds. Once we have that guidance we will better be able to consider potential expenditures.

    "As things develop we will be sure to communicate with the community."

    County addition, neighbors' numbers

    The MMA summary says: "Where county governments have been abolished (Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Suffolk and Worcester), the law will keep the aid in the state by distributing the money to the cities and towns in the county based on the municipalities’ percentage of the county population, and communities may use the funds to supplement their direct aid."

    In that light, the spreadsheet showing estimates includes an added amount for Arlington of $8,830,457 for Middlesex.

    As to our neighbors, here is what the MMA estimates show:

    Cambridge, $87.9 million; Somerville, $79 million; Medford, $50.3 million; Lexington, $9.7 million; Belmont, $7.6 million; Winchester, $6.7 million. 

    The funds will be provided in two blocks, in 2021 and 2022, and will be available for use through 2024.

    Town news release 

    State, county and municipal governments will benefit from approximately $350 billion from the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Current estimates have Arlington receiving $36 million in funding from this bill, a March 25 town news release says. 

    “We are pleased to see additional financial relief come to Arlington,” Chapdelaine said in the release. “The town is awaiting more detailed guidance from the Department of the Treasury in regards to how it can actually spend the funds. We are anxious to learn more and share the results with the Arlington community.”

    ARPA funds may be used to replace revenue lost or reduced as a result of the pandemic, fund COVID-related costs, provide support to aid households and businesses impacted by the crisis, invest in economic recovery and renewal, and fund investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. 

    As information becomes available the town will provide updates.

    Globe, March 18: Cities hit hard by virus are underfunded relative to peers in federal stimulus

    Jan. 27, 2021: Amid uncertainty, fiscal '22 town budget includes $80M for schools


    This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Susan Gilbert and Bob Sprague was published Wednesday, March 17, 2021. It was updated March 18, to add school response; March 19, to add Globe link; and March 25, to add town news release.

    Note: Thanks to a town resident who tipped off YourArlington about the estimate.