SCHENECTADY — A committee tasked with providing recommendations on how the city should spend millions in coronavirus relief funding is expected to begin reviewing dozens of applications from organizations seeking funding next week.
City Council President Marion Porterfield said on Monday the 18 individuals that will make up the city’s American Rescue Plan Act advisory committee are currently going through training and will begin the process of reviewing the 71 applications from organizations seeking a combined $75 million in funding next week.
Council members voted to formally appoint members to the committee earlier this month, nearly four months after agreeing to form the committee back in January, following a series of public forums last year where residents repeatedly asked to have a say in how the funds will be distributed.
But the process of forming the committee was bogged down as council members worked to hammer out details surrounding the application process and guidelines to aid in the review of applications.
It was ultimately decided that the committee members should have no ties to any of the organization’s seeking funding, and that members would utilize the same review guidelines when vetting applications that were used by the city’s development department, which has already reviewed each application.
More than 30 people expressed interest in partaking, but just 18 ended up applying to be on the committee.
The members are:
Elizabeth Mastrianni; James LaPoint; Fred Durocher; Sean O’ Brien; Brendan Savage; Sheila Palmer; Richard Shave; Michelle Lupe; Bob Mantello; Ray Faught; Cynthia Farmer; Eleanor Pepper; Keith St. John; Dawn Meifert; Jean Marie Secovic; Christine Palmer; Ifrecak Miller; and Pat Smith.
Members will be tasked with providing recommendations on how the money should be spent, but it will ultimately be up to the City Council to decide how the funds are spent.
The city received just under $53 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress last year that provided billions in funding to local governments to aid in pandemic recovery efforts.
A $26 million tranche of funding was received by the city last year and millions have already been spent by the city to recoup lost revenue, backfill dozens of vacant positions and relocate the Central Park pool, leaving around $11 million left to spend — far less than what organizations are asking for.
The city is expected to open a second round of applications later this year after receiving a second $26 million funding tranche.
Money can be used for a number of things, including infrastructure projects relating to water, sewer and broadband, providing premium pay for essential workers and aiding in pandemic recovery efforts.
Funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. Unspent money must be returned to the federal government.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.