GHENT—On March 11 of this year President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), a $1.9 trillion stimulus package. The state Conference of Mayors called this a “huge victory,” stating “the plan includes $360 billion in direct financial relief for state and local governments, including $65 billion for America’s cities, villages and towns, as well as $65 billion for counties.”
Local municipalities and county school districts have talked about the funding at board meetings, waiting for more details on the funds from the Federal Government. At the Chatham Town Board meeting June 17, Supervisor Donal Collins reported briefly on the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation. He said the town’s Finance and Planning Committee would be “busy next month” as the federal treasury refines its guidelines.
Supervisor Collins pointed out that the town is a non-entitlement unit (NEU), which means the funding will go to the state for distribution to the town. He also said the town would have to split a percentage of the funding with the Village of Chatham based on population. The Town of Ghent will also have to share some its funding with the village, since the Village of Chatham is in both towns.
The federal treasury defines NEU, in the Social Security Act, as “local governments typically serving populations of less than 50,000. NEUs include cities, villages, towns, townships, or other types of local governments.”
According to the treasury website, NEUs should expect to receive “Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund payments through their state governments.” New York State will receive a specific allocation of these funds from the federal treasury for this purpose “and are responsible for distributing these funds to NEUs within their state. Award amounts are based on the population of the NEU.” The act will provide $19.53 billion to support tens of thousands of NEUs of local government.
‘We are being advised to be careful and patient and meticulous as we process.’
Supervisor Donal Collins
Town of Chatham
When the funds were originally announced in March, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D) announced that Columbia County would receive about $11.5 million. The Town of Chatham would receive about $420,000 and the Town of Ghent would receive about $566,000.
At the June 9 meeting of the County Board of Supervisors, county Treasurer PJ Keeler announced that the county had received half of the stimulus money, totaling $5.7 million in May, according to the meeting minutes. Mr. Keeler “explained that the U.S. Treasury has released a 40 page document with stipulations attached to the funds and he anticipates additional documentation to come through as well.” According the meeting notes, Mr. Keeler suggested a committee help oversee the disbursement of these funds in the county.
Mr. Keeler “recommended that the county take its time to evaluate how funds should be spent and that they are to replace revenue losses,” the minutes say. The funds must be allocated by the end of 2026 according the treasurer. The minutes say that Chairman Matt Murell (R-Stockport) will have the Budget Workgroup Committee “work on this.”
As for the towns, they have not received the funds from the state yet.
The latest GhentCAN community email said, “we don’t yet have the guidelines from the U.S. Treasury regarding what we can use it for. Once we have more information, we will be seeking public input about uses for this funding.”
At the Chatham Town Board meeting, Supervisor Collins said that there were four basic categories for using the funding involving anything from expenses of Covid-19 prevention measures to revenue losses, infrastructure, and essential workers compensation. He said the town had until December of 2024 to spend the money.
“We are being advised to be careful and patient and meticulous as we proceed,” Supervisor Collins said at the meeting.
According to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, for NEUs the state Division of the Budget (DOB) “is responsible for allocating funds received by the state.”
“NEU local governments should contact DOB for information regarding their respective allocations. Local governments should consult with the treasury if they have questions regarding allowable uses, documentation and reporting requirements that are not answered by their sources published on the treasury’s web page,” according to the comptroller’s office.
Municipalities may use the funds to: support public health expenditures; address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harms to workers, households, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector; replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic; provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have borne and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors; and invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
Calls to the office of Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-19th) about the funding were not returned by press deadline.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email