The City of Haverhill has spent or earmarked just under $7 million of approximately $37.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money. The COVID-19 relief aid was paid to cities across the country to offset losses caused by the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Haverhill City Auditor and Chief Financial Officer Angel Wills presented the City Council with an overview of the allocation and its allowable uses as well as amounts already spent, planned future expenditures and the administration’s plans moving ahead. Wills said half of the money came last May with the remainder arriving sometime this summer. She explained the money came with rules on how it can be spent—stipulations that continue to evolve.
“In May 2021, when it was originally released, there was a lot of confusion, as there was with the CARES Act, on what was eligible and, as we sift through it, there will probably be lots of questions. We do have consultants on board,” she said.
Wills explained there are four categories of allowable uses. They include replacement of lost public sector revenue, to which the city has already allocated just under $3.2 million for streets and sidewalks, city hall building repairs and other projects. Public health support for households, small businesses and nonprofits is another category where another $826,000 has already been assigned. That money went towards COVID-19 testing, Plug Pond improvements and other needs.
The other two categories include premium pay for eligible workers and infrastructure improvements, including water and sewer and broadband. Wills said public input on other ways to spend ARPA money include a variety of ideas. “Sewer in unconnected city areas, money for nonprofits, funding for the Consentino school building project, public health and testing vaccinations, investments in streets, sidewalks and bike paths, a new indoor ice rink,” she noted.
She said the suggestions to date would cost about $440 million—considerably more than what is available.
Council Vice President John A. Michitson and Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua expressed support for using the money to do as much road and sidewalk repair as possible. They said doing so would reduce the extra financial burden on city taxpayers.
Under federal rules, Haverhill must obligate all money by Dec. 31, 2024 and all money must be spent and work accomplished by the end of 2026.