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Board discussion of how to spend $34M in U.S. funds put off to September

Public to get its say in next month's survey

Finance image

UPDATED, Aug. 12: The Select Board had scheduled a discussion for Monday, Aug. 9, about initial plans to address how to spend $34 million due from the federal government, an unprecedented impact on the town, whose current budget totals $187,456,161, but that was delayed until Sept. 13.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019

The funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is a slice of $350 billion aimed at softening blows from the Covid-19 pandemic and boosting water-related infrastructure. Instead of a discussion, the board formally accept these funds from the federal government and endorsed the following:

  • $1.6 million in immediate water/sewer spending for current needs; and
  • $50,000 for the Housing Corporation of Arlington to immediately fund homelessness prevention.
Manager's presentation, link to Sept. 9 forum

Discussion was delayed in the interest of time at a meeting that went past 11 p.m.

Funds under the act must be used to target pandemic recovery, must be temporary and not tied to recurring expenses.

Survey in September

 A public survey was to start Thursday, Aug. 12, and close Sept. 9, when a virtual forum had been scheduled, but the postponement of the board's discussion led Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine to say that he wants to "kick up public feedback on these expenditures." A public survey is expected through the first week of September, to be discussed at the Sept. 13 Select Board meeting, and request final endorsement at the Sept. 27 meeting.

On Sept. 27, the board is to approve a final funding proposal.

In an Aug. 6 memo, Chapdelaine wrote: " ... [I]t is my sincere belief that we can use these funds to have a meaningful and lasting impact on Arlington as both a town government and as a community."

This and two other memos propose how to spend some of the $34 million. See all of documents here >> Here is a sampling of suggested spending.

Health, human services

Christine Bongiorno, director of Health and Human Services (HHS), proposes:

  • $45,000 a year to support police and HHS clinical positions -- jail-diversion clinician and outreach/case manager;
  • $25,000 for a three-year plan for homelessness in coordination with the Somerville Homeless Coalition;
  • $50,000 a year for a recovery coach for three years through PAARI. After three years, the coach will be hired through the PAARI Americorps program;
  • $98,000 a year to expand psychiatry services at the Arlington Youth Counseling Center for youth and families;
  • $100,000 for police training around mental health, homelessness and trauma informed response;
  • $75,000 a year to hire a part-time temporary public health nurse to manage Covid-19 testing, vaccinations and contact tracing; and
  • $75,000 a year for three years for a consultant to manage public-health accreditation process, a new standard for health departments across nationwide.
Community development

Jennifer Raitt, director, Planning and Community Development, proposes uses for tenant/homeowner assistance, small business/nonprofits and affordable housing.

From August 2020 to July 2021, 110 Arlington households received rental support through the Arlington Emergency Tenant Assistance Program, administered through the Department of Planning and Community Development. About one-third (36) of these households reside in properties owned by the Housing Corporation of Arlington, Arlington Housing Authority or Caritas Communities or are Section 8.

In addition, the Arlington Health and Human Services Corporation (Covid-19 Relief Fund) and the Housing Corporation of Arlington (Homelessness Prevention Program) provided rental assistance to Arlington residents during the pandemic. Ongoing need for rental assistance among Arlington households is evident. While few Arlington homeowners have faced foreclosure in recent years, the financial challenges and delays in foreclosure proceedings caused by the pandemic may result in greater-than-typical need from homeowners.

• About 75 Arlington households will benefit from rent or mortgage assistance;

• Eligible applicants may receive up to $2,500 per month for up to six months of assistance; and

• The total funding required to provide this support is $1 million.

o Part of funds, to be determined, will be reserved for low-and moderate-income residents (those earning up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income).

o Up to $100,000 will be reserved for a contract with a housing administrator, to conduct communications, review applications and hold a lottery, as deemed necessary by the town.

ARPA Housing and Economic Development Program Recommendations

Requests from home-based businesses are capped at $10,000. Operators of AirBnB rentals are not eligible.

The total funding required to provide this support is $1.5 million.

The program will be administered by the Department of Planning and Community Development. Funding will be distributed by Dec. 31, 2024.

Eligibility criteria (subject to change based upon federal guidance)

• Applicants must be a business owner or nonprofit organization in Arlington.

• Applicants must demonstrate inability or difficulty paying rent or mortgage due to COVID-19 if requesting assistance to pay rent, utilities or payroll.

• Applicants must submit a detailed plan for deploying funds and a reasonable timeline for project completion or program implementation.

• All income levels are eligible.

Recommendation for Affordable Housing Preservation and Development

Subject to eligibility rules, the Department encourages the Select Board to program a portion of its ARPA funds toward affordable housing in the order of magnitude of $5 million to $10 million, including for the following:

1. Provide funding to the Housing Corporation of Arlington to provide assistance toward their next planned affordable housing development and capital improvements toward their existing property portfolio. As Arlington’s community development corporation and partner in affordable housing since the early 2000s, HCA is in a position to invest in their existing portfolio, add new permanently affordable housing units to their inventory, and expand upon their community engagement. ARPA funds could assist with all categories of assistance. Significant town financial support is often needed for HCA’s project to be financially feasible. ARPA funds would considerably expedite new development as well as improvements to existing units.

2. Provide funding to further subsidize units created at new affordable housing developments. Most of the new development is geared towards meeting the Town’s Inclusionary Zoning bylaw or the requirements of subsidizing agencies under M.G.L. Chapter 40B. In either case the income limits are higher with corresponding higher rental or ownership costs. Two developments currently under review by the Zoning Board of Appeals may be eligible for assistance: one with all rental units and the other with a combination of rental and homeownership units. ARPA funds could be provided to the sponsor to buy down the cost of a unit for sale so that it is available to a lower-income household and further subsidize the cost of the rental units to people making incomes lower than 60% of the area median income, rather than 80 percent of the area median income.

3. Provide funding to the Arlington Housing Authority for capital repair. State-aided public housing has been undercapitalized for years resulting in a significant backlog of needed repairs. AHA developments primarily serve seniors, individuals, and families who make a very low-income and are ineligible for key programs such as the US Department of Housing and Urban Development Rental Assistance Demonstration program. ARPA funds could offset capital costs that may be stalled due to a lack of state support.

4. Provide funding to Arlington social service providers, including childcare assistance and supports, transportation assistance, food assistance, and medical/ healthcare assistance. Providers continue to experience extraordinary demand for their services and assistance. ARPA funds could offset costs associated with providing these social supports. 

In March, the amount for Arlington was projected at $36.8 million by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the nonprofit representing 351 cities and towns in the commonwealth. Read it here >> Within that analysis are these numbers >> 

March 27, 2021: Arlington eyes estimated $36.8M via rescue plan

This news summary was published Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, and updated Aug. 10 with information from Susan Gilbert, who covered the meeting. Updated Aug. 12, to add link to manager's presentation, Sept. 9 forum.

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