Meriden officials share some details regarding use of American Rescue Act coronavirus funds



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MERIDEN — Members of the City Council’s finance committee received a summary Wednesday night on how $36.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act and state coronavirus relief funds can be utilized. 

City Manager Timothy Coon, speaking during a remote finance committee meeting, outlined four categories for the use of the funds. The categories include direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including investments made to mitigate the virus’s spread, local government revenue loss due to the pandemic, investments into water, sewer and broadband infrastructure and premium pay for essential workers.

Meanwhile, the nine-person committee, named the Meriden American Rescue Plan Steering Committee, whose charge is to make recommendations regarding the funds’ use, was not yet fully formed as of Wednesday. That committee’s membership will include Mayor Kevin Scarpati, Coon, Finance Director Kevin McNabola, along with three City Council members, a Board of Education representative and two at-large community members. 

Coon explained that the city has already received close to $18.2 million, or about half of its anticipated allocation in the latest round of coronavirus relief funds. The remaining funds will be distributed by next June. 

City officials will need to have the funds obligated toward eligible expenses by 2024. The funds would need to be fully expended by 2026, Coon told the finance committee. 

Coon and McNabola explained local communities have received “significant leeway” on how the funds can be utilized, so long as they are accounted for.

The response was to a question from City Councilor Dan Brunet regarding whether the city is able to collect interest on any of the funds it receives. Officials confirmed the city can opt to place funds in interest-earning accounts.

The city so far has spent $26,000 to expand the senior center and $49,000 on software packages that would allow city officials to survey the community, Coon said. 

Brunet also asked Coon if there are any mechanisms in place to monitor how other communities are spending relief funds. 

Coon responded that he was not aware of any formal mechanisms. However, he and leaders from other municipalities are regularly communicating through forums, “sharing ideas on how funds can be utilized,” Coon said. 

Coon noted that less than half of the federal ARPA funds are being distributed directly to municipalities like Meriden. 

“The rest is going to the state,” he said, adding there is a significant possibility of overlap because of the different funding streams and agencies overseeing their distribution.

Sonya Jelks, the council’s majority leader, asked Coon if there will be a process for the city to receive suggestions or proposals from the public or businesses.

Coon said there would be such a process. 

“There will be an application form,” he said, that request applicants indicate the category they’re applying for, and include information including their proposed budgets and how they would be monitoring goals.

“That would help the [steering] committee evaluate each application,” he said. 

The applications should become available at around the same time the committee is fully formed, which Coon anticipated would be in two to three weeks. 

mgagne@record-journal.com203-317-2231Twitter:@MikeGagneRJ



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