Haverhill Makes Plans for Spending $7 Million in Federal COVID-19 Aid; $30 Million to Go

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.

Gov. Baker Fulfills Promise to See Residency Graduates at GLFHC’s 17th Annual Gala

Wednesday night was a night of looking back, looking ahead and celebrating being together and with the governor as Greater Lawrence Family Health Center hosted its first in-person event in more than two years. The 17th Annual Making a Difference Gala was hosted at the Andover Country Club with more than 400 guests to honor Johnathan Issacson, president and CEO of The Gem Group, a Lawrence-based promotional products company. Issacson was named as the Making a Difference award recipient for his company’s efforts during the pandemic. “The Health Center, Lawrence General and Holy Family, among others, were on the front line. It was at that time I received an email from Eileen Reynolds at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, titled ‘Hail Mary.’ They were struggling with COVID, had run short of PTE and needed help.

Haverhill Mayor Says Vax Order Was His First Responder Offer; Union Calls Strings Unfair

Haverhill’s mayor is disputing an account the city’s first responders were not offered COVID-19 “premium pay,” but union members are standing firm a January order came with strings attached. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said in a statement Thursday what he called a “carrot and stick” approach in January—paying $500 to city workers who receive vaccinations—is his version of premium pay. The mayor, who is out of town, said “All other unions agreed, accepted the money and thanked us. Police and fire refused.”

Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Timothy Carroll questioned the January city rule requiring workers to be vaccinated by March 4. Those that complied were promised an incentive paid with federal American Rescue Plan Act money.

Group Thanks Cities for Extra Pay for First Responders, But Haverhill Workers Say None So Far for Them

A statewide police labor group is thanking Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence, among other communities, for setting aside a portion of American Rescue Plan Act money for premium pay for first responders. Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 President Timothy Carroll, however, told WHAV Wednesday the city has so far refused the extra pay for firefighters. “We would like to see them do it, but he (Mayor James J. Fiorentini) said he wouldn’t give us any,” Carroll said. If Haverhill had acted as other communities that put up 2% of relief aid, he added, the city’s first responders would have received about $3,500 each. Carroll said the city pulled everything else off the table when the union endorsed former Council Vice President Colin F. LePage in his bid for mayor.

Haverhill Council to Hear Plans for Distributing Youth Activities and Mental Health Grants

The fruits of last summer’s Haverhill city budget compromise are scheduled to be discussed Tuesday night when city councilors invite nonprofits to apply for Youth Activities and Mental Health grants. On the last day of June last year, the City Council approved the half-million-dollar fund after then-President Melinda E. Barrett negotiated with Mayor James J. Fiorentini. The arrangement, using money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, also allowed the city’s $217 million spending plan to take effect the next day. Councilors originally defeated the mayor’s budget by a vote of 5-4 last year when the two sides were unable to agree on establishing the fund and how the city would pay for it. At first, Barrett urged the mayor to commit all cannabis money to the revolving fund, saying “You’re really close.

Sen. Edward Markey to Discuss Free Fares During MVRTA Bus Ride Tuesday Afternoon

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, who supported federal COVID-19 relief aid, will be riding a Merrimack Valley regional Transit Authority bus tomorrow that used the money to make rides free to passengers. Markey is scheduled to hop on Route 01 at 3:25 p.m., Tuesday, April 12, at Target, 67 Pleasant Valley St., Methuen. The bus arrives at Buckley Transportation Center in Lawrence around 3:45. “He will be engaging with riders and talking to the press about what the free fares means for Lawrence and the entire Merrimack Valley,” officials said. The Transit Authority is replacing fares lost during the two-year pilot with federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and American Rescue Plan Act.

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center Shares in COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative

Greater Lawrence Family Health Center is sharing in $3.1 million set aside by the state to support 42 community health centers to increase awareness and access to vaccines in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The money is in addition to $5 million being distributed to community health centers for walk-in vaccination services. Greater Lawrence Family Health Center operates clinics in Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence. “These trusted community-based organizations know their communities best,” said state Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “They use their knowledge and relationships to expand the efforts of our Vaccine Equity Initiative by helping address the unique health equity needs of the communities and populations they serve—needs that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.”

The grants are the result of an award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Commonwealth, building on the state’s investment to increase vaccine awareness and acceptance.

Haverhill Lifts COVID-19 Mask Requirement for Public at City Hall, Other Municipal Buildings

Citing dropping COVID-19 rates in Haverhill and revised federal guidelines, Mayor James J. Fiorentini says mask wearing by the public is no longer required in City Hall or other public buildings as of Friday, March 4. Fiorentini said he consulted with the Haverhill Board of Health and the city’s medical advisors before making the decision. Face masks remain mandatory in public buildings for non-vaccinated employees and recommended for non-vaccinated members of the public.