With $18 Million in Hand and More Coming, Haverhill Moves Cautiously to Spend COVID-19 Relief Aid

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill has received $18 million of $38 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid, but is proceeding cautiously on spending to ensure it doesn’t run afoul of emerging regulations

Director of Public Works Michael K. Stankovich told councilors this week the American Rescue Plan Act money is being coming in two installments. The balance is expected in May or June of next year. Stankovich noted the money must be earmarked for use by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent within the following two years. He explained how it could be used.

“Infrastructure for water, sewer and broadband, lost public sector revenue, public health, negative economic impacts and premium pay for essential personnel,” he listed.

Stankovich said it is still unclear what expenditures are acceptable under the grant and, for that reason, most of the money already received is being held until clarifications are made. Thus far, the city has spent about $3 million—much of it on COVID-19 vaccines and testing and setting up the city’s new health department.

Stankovich went on to say Mayor James J. Fiorentini has asked the public be included in the decision-making process regarding how the money should be spent. He said an online survey was created on the city’s website. Other virtual town hall type events are being considered for some time next month.

Councilor Michael S. McGonagle questioned whether the mayor needed the blessing of the Council regarding spending plans. City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. responded no, the mayor can make those decisions autonomously.

“So, provided that it’s within the parameters of the grant funding, no, it does not require a separate appropriation in order to do that,” he said.

The Council was charged, however, with making a formal acceptance of that money as well as funds the city received earlier through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. That money was used to help families and businesses impacted financially by the coronavirus.

Stankovich also told the Council there is one other federal grant coming to the city next year, called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He said there has been very little guidance provided, thus far, as to how that money must be used. He did say that amount will likely not be given to cities directly, but instead go to the state which will dole it out.

The Council voted unanimously to accept both the CARES Act money the ARP Act grants.

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