The Bulletin Board

Manchester appears alone with a plan for its $43.2 million new federal aid

By: - July 16, 2021 12:10 pm

Source: National League of Cities

The five New Hampshire cities awarded nearly $86 million in American Rescue Plan money have until late August to tell the federal government how they’ll use that money. So far, Manchester appears to be the only city with a detailed plan.

Officials in Rochester, Nashua, and Portsmouth said they are still developing spending priorities for the nearly combined $50 million headed their way. Dover officials did not return a message. Half that money has already reached cities. The other half is expected next year.

This funding is in addition to American Rescue Plan money going to the state ($994.5 million; counties ($264 million); and local communities ($112 million.) Unlike the five cities, municipalities do not receive the money directly and must apply for it through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Relief and Recovery. The first payment, $56 million, was accepted last week by the Executive Council. 

In Manchester, which is receiving $43.2 million, Mayor Joyce Craig has received initial approval for a detailed spending plan that tackles homelessness, extends aid for small businesses, creates job training programs in partnership with local universities, and puts a community health worker in all city wards to take over home wellness checks. 

“This funding that’s coming directly to the city of Manchester is something that the city has never received before,” Craig said. “So we are able to really strategically think about where these funds can best meet the needs of our community to prevent certain things and to move our city forward over the next five years.”

The board of alderman gave Craig’s plan initial approval in early July and will consider final approval this week.

Craig used results from a community survey and input from city departments to identify priorities. While some of the money will be used to extend programs already in place like the affordable housing fund, homeless outreach, and small businesses aid, Craig sees the community health workers as a particularly important piece. The plan includes $13.5 million for this initiative, as well as overtime pay for police foot patrols, and new park rangers who will encourage park use by enforcing rules and organizing community events.

The 13 community health workers will take over wellness checks from the police department, which has found that 90 percent of those calls do not require police intervention but rather assistance from health providers and social service agencies. Craig said the city has found success with a similar neighborhood-level approach that is using outreach workers to ensure residents know where they can get vaccinated. 

Without responsibility for the wellness checks and the additional money for patrols, the police department intends to step up crime investigation and prevention.  Craig said the new community health workers are “something (city public health and police officials) have talked about for a number of years,” Craig said. “I feel they will really provide so much value to our community.”

The other four cities are still putting their plans together.

Nashua spokeswoman Kerry Miller said of the $16 million coming to that city, $4.4 million will be used to replace lost revenue such as school aid that was cut by the state. The city is still considering how to use the rest.

Portsmouth is receiving $12.8 million. City Manager Karen Conard said city staff are in the process of developing a plan. Katie Ambrose, deputy finance director for Rochester, which is receiving $6.1 million, said the city is still reviewing proposals submitted by department heads. Dover, where officials did not return a message, is receiving $7.5 million.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

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.