Schenectady

Schenectady seeks to launch American Rescue Plan application in the coming days

Schenectady City Hall at dusk
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Schenectady City Hall at dusk

SCHENECTADY — The city is planning to launch an online application in the coming days allowing organizations to apply for a portion of the $53 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds received earlier this year, though how exactly the money will be allocated has yet to be determined. 

Mayor Gary McCarthy, during a meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee Monday, said he hopes the application will go live on the city’s website by week’s end, but noted the council still has to decide the process that will determine what organizations receive funding.

Once the application goes live, organizations will have until Dec. 31 to apply. The applications will begin being reviewed sometime in January, McCarthy said.

“This is the first phase,” he said. “We’re going to get more money in next year, so it made it a little tighter of a timeline than initially looked at, but it’s to get people thinking about it and starting the process.”

Funds received under the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, approved by Congress earlier this year, can be used by local governments to recoup lost revenue incurred during the pandemic, address negative economic impacts from the public health emergency, provide premium pay for essential employees and cover a number of infrastructure projects involving water, sewer and broadband.

The city has received $26.4 million in ARPA funds to date, with a second tranche expected sometime next spring.

Only a portion of the funding has been spent, including $8.9 million used to recoup lost revenue and $4.3 million that was allocated as part of next year’s budget. A total of $233,000 was allocated between the Boys & Girls Club and the city’s police and fire departments.

To help determine the best use of the funds, the city hosted a number of community forums and launched an online survey back in September to gain input from residents.

Results from the survey — which received 191 responses — show a large demand for greater community investment.

A total of 72% of respondents said eliminating environmental hazards like trash, vacant and dilapidated buildings and overgrown lots was a “high priority.” Additionally, 77% of respondents said improving streets, sidewalks and drainage were high priority items.

Improving access to food and food services was a high priority for 68% of respondents while providing housing opportunities for the homeless was a high priority of 59% of respondents.

McCarthy, in an interview following the meeting, said he wasn’t surprised by the survey results.

“It’s kind of consistent with things that we talked about, things that we know,” he said.

He added that the council must decide how the funds will be allocated, which includes making a decision on whether to appoint a special committee to review applications and whether to designate an amount that can be spent on certain initiatives.

A timeline to decide the process is unclear, though council members said it’s important that residents be included in the process.

“I think it’s really important that, since it’s a one-time thing, that we get community input,” Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said during the meeting.

McCarthy, meanwhile, is hoping to have a better understanding of what funding is available so the city doesn’t allocate ARPA funding on projects that may be eligible for other funds.

He pointed to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, signed by President Joseph Biden on Monday, as a possible funding stream that can be used to repair some of the city’s infrastructure.

“There’s still other funding streams out there,” he said. “There’s the one that was signed today and others that are available on an application process, so it’s determining if there are ways we can access some of those funds to leverage resources within the community to get the most dollars here for the residents of Schenectady.”

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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