Chestertown has $4.4 million of Covid Relief funds on its account and two years to spend it. What’s the best way to allocate these funds?
That’s a question Chestertown’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Advisory Task Force will be tackling in the months to come as the group of 10 volunteers seek to both educate the public about the fund application process and to act as advisors to the town council who will ultimately decide on fund allocations.
In the wake of the covid pandemic, state and local governments suffered an unprecedented strain on municipal functions. To help reverse the negative impacts of the pandemic, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package bill was passed by Congress in March 2021. Funds distributed to the states were in turn apportioned to cities and towns with guidelines for their use.
The task force met for the second time Tuesday night to discuss and define their fundamental role as public educators and advisors to the town council. Ward 2 Councilman Tom Herz and Mayor David Foster were in attendance to help clarify the town council’s role in the funding allocations. Kate Van Name officiated the meeting.
Two themes emerged out of the discussion: the town’s infrastructure and government services need to be a weighted priority, and the impact of the pandemic on all demographics of the community needs to be identified to help evaluate applications from individuals and organizations as they are submitted.
Ward 2 Councilman Tom Herz said that town infrastructure and service issues are being evaluated and that funds between the town’s needs and funds available for disbursement to qualifying individuals and organizations would probably be central to allocating the funds.
Final guidelines for ARPA funds disbursements have expanded but generally include:
Support public health expenditures.
Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency.
Replace lost public sector revenue.
Provide premium pay for essential workers.
Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Van Name says the task force will soon be hosting a website to encourage community input and clarify eligibility for funding and the application process. Meetings will take place at Town Hall every other Tuesday at 7 pm. The next meeting will be on April 12. The meetings are open to the public.
Here are a few minutes of Chairperson Kate Van Name discussing the disbursement process with Councilmember Tom Herz.
This video is approximately four minutes in length.