Cities and towns throughout the state are trying to figure out exactly how they can spend money they will receive through the American Rescue Plan that sent $350 billion in emergency relief to state and local governments. The answer to that question has been slow to come, with the mounting pressure of spending and budgeting deadlines.
Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said it is not even clear exactly how much the city will receive. Berlin is slated to receive a million dollars, but Grenier doesn’t know if that means two installments of $500,000 or two million-dollar installments. He worries that waiting until the deadlines approach will lead to other problems down the road – like a shortage of contractors and engineers to complete projects as many towns come up against the same deadlines.
“We’re kind of on hold,” he said. Grenier said Berlin has been getting guidance “in drips and drabs.”
“Until we get further clarity, it’s really an unknown,” he said. But the city will need an answer by the time its municipal budget is due, in the third week of June. The money will be used for one-time capital expenditures officials put off last year, such as repairing a red-listed bridge that spans a canal in the city. The money will also go toward the purchase of major pieces of snow-removal equipment.
Berlin isn’t the only municipality feeling the pinch of impending deadlines. On Friday, U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to clarify how the money can be spent.
“Given impending budget deadlines, New Hampshire and other states require prompt guidance from Treasury regarding the eligible uses of state and local relief funds,” the senators wrote. They asked Yellen to provide guidance on eligible uses of the money “as quickly as possible.”
Information is particularly needed on the Social Security Act, which is intended to provide relief to essential workers, and direct money into related services and investments, the letter said.