Many local municipalities that have applied for federal funds to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic are still in the process of deciding how they will spend that money.
In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act to support coronavirus pandemic recovery. Under the act, New Hampshire will receive a total of $112 million in two installments. On June 1, the state received $56,104,386 to be distributed among towns and cities, according to the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery (GOFERR). The state will receive a second payment of the same amount next year.
Towns must apply to the state for their allocations, which can be used for a variety of expenditures including investing in water, sewerage and broadband infrastructure; providing additional financial support for frontline workers; addressing the health crisis’ negative economic impact on households, small businesses and the public sector; and replacing lost revenue in the public sector.
Municipalities’ allocations are determined by population, and the deadline to apply for the first round of the funds is Wednesday.
Jaffrey plans to use its money to replace a sewage line beneath Stratton Road, Town Manager Jon Frederick said. The town will receive $276,223.64 in this round of payments, according to GOFERR.
Keene will receive just over $1 million in its first allocation. Of that, $458,000 will go toward general and parking funds to replace revenue lost because of the pandemic, according to City Manager Elizabeth Dragon. Keene also has several water projects in its capital plan to which funds could be allocated, she said.
Similarly, Swanzey — which is expected to receive $377,929 in this first round — has also been considering using ARPA funds to replace lost revenue, according to Town Administrator Michael Branley. Other ideas include installing an HVAC system in town hall to allow better air circulation or channeling funds to improve the recycling center.
“We’re still digging through the interim final rule,” he said, referring to the guidelines put forth by the Department of the Treasury that outline what the funds can be used for.
Aaron Patt, Greenfield’s town administrator, said the application was fairly simple, but officials are still learning about all the eligible uses for the money.
“We’re going to look pretty closely at all the possible types of expenditures and find a way forward from that point,” he said. Patt added that the town can use the Treasury’s interim rule as a guide but will still need to wait for the final rule to determine exactly which projects can be covered with ARPA funds.
Fitzwilliam, Richmond, Hancock and Rindge have also successfully submitted applications for ARPA funds, but town officials said they are still discussing what the money might be used for.
“We’re trying to take stock of what’s needed in town,” Rindge Town Administrator Sara Gravell said.
In a news release last week, the N.H. Democratic Party called on Gov. Chris Sununu to extend the application deadline, citing concerns about the number of towns that still had not submitted requests for the funds. As of Aug. 12, 50 towns had not done so, according to N.H Bulletin.
Some communities felt they didn’t need the funds or the allocations aren’t worth the “onerous” reporting requirements, according to the article. Others had trouble determining if they are eligible to apply and what exactly the money could be spent on.
Municipalities that do not apply by Wednesday’s deadline will not be able to apply next year when the state receives the second half of the federal funds, the Bulletin reported. Those cities and towns will have their funds re-allocated to those that successfully submitted applications, according to the GOFERR website.
The deadline is not flexible, GOFERR Communications Director Alex Fries confirmed Monday.