The Bulletin Board

American Rescue Plan money setting town and city projects in motion

By: - July 29, 2021 2:02 pm
An American flag sticking out of a pile of paper money

Congress must approve some sort of funding bill before Friday at midnight to avoid a government shutdown. (Getty Images)

This story was updated July 29, 2021 at 3 p.m. with information about Claremont’s plans for its federal aid.

Nearly 70 New Hampshire cities and towns have received the first half of the nearly $112 million coming to them as part of the American Rescue Plan Act passed in May. Sixty others have submitted requests and are awaiting payment, and the rest have until Aug. 18 to submit requests.

The money can be used for expenses related to COVID-19, but the definition is so broad it can include things like vaccination clinics and mental health treatment but also homeless services and expanding broadband. Communities will receive the second half of their funding next summer. 

Belmont Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said her town will put the nearly $384,000 it has received so far toward repairing and relining a town well that serves residents but also town buildings. Voters have rejected funding requests and grants to complete the nearly $450,000 project in the past.  

“We are very excited about it,” Beaudin said. “We’re hoping to get underway in the near future.” 

Exeter will get $1.6 million in total. The first half has arrived and may go to water and sewer infrastructure, said Town Manager Russell Dean. The town is paying off a $54 million wastewater treatment plant it built in 2019 and has other costly projects on its to-do list. But Dean is waiting to hear from town departments before deciding how to spend the money. 

“It’s great to have and a really positive step forward for the town,” he said. “It can go in a number of different ways, and that’s another one of those reasons you want to take some time and do it right.”

Lancaster will receive a total of $340,000. Town Manager Benjamin Gaetjens-Oleson said town officials have not settled on a specific project for the first half, which should arrive soon. The town recently inventoried its assets and identified various needs. Gaetjens-Oleson said rather than spread the money around to multiple projects, the town will likely choose one.

Claremont, which is getting $1.3 million, is considering using some of its first payment to replace revenue lost during COVID-19, said City Manager Ed Morris. Where bigger cities took a hit on parking revenue, Claremont lost money in dues and rental payments when it had to close its community center, which has a pool, fitness space, and event rooms.

City staff are still exploring possibilities for the second half of the money. “Hopefully we can really do some good things for the town,” Morris said.

The American Rescue Plan also awarded the state $994.5 million. The 10 counties are sharing $264 million, and five qualifying cities are splitting $86 million. Manchester, which is receiving $43.2 million, has released a detailed plan that includes new community health workers, aid for small businesses, and job training programs to address workforce shortages. 

While Manchester and four other cities received their funding directly, towns and other cities must request their funding from the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery. Alex Fries, spokesman for the program, said the office does not evaluate plans for approval, but rather sends the communities their allotted funding. The office has posted a list of each community’s award on its website. 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.