After weeks of negotiating with local leaders in Chelsea and Everett after being shorted by the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the federal delegation, Gov. Charlie Baker announced his Administration would dedicate a total of $100 million of additional federal funding to those two communities – and two others that were shorted.
The additional funding announcement brought Everett and Chelsea further up from the low levels of funding they did have under the Plan, but still far behind more affluent communities like Newton and Brookline and others.
“When this issue was first brought to our attention and when you look at the numbers generally, when you have what I would describe as relatively better-off financially communities getting $70, $80, and $90 million, and you have places like Chelsea and Everett…, which have been hit pretty hard by the pandemic and don’t have the kinds of resources many of these other communities have, getting $6, $7 and $8 million – it was pretty clear there was a problem there,” said Gov. Baker. “We began serious conversations with the local leaders in those communities to figure out how we might frame this to figure out how to solve it. Once we reached what I would describe as a general agreement to the problems they were trying to deal with as part of their own initiative, we then talked to the folks in the legislative leadership here to incorporate that into the planning we do here on how we do allocate federal resources that are part of the ARP.”
The details were still very fuzzy when announced on Thursday, March 25, at a regular COVID-19 update press conference, but those close to the situation seemed to indicate that Chelsea and Everett might be in line for about $28 million each in additional funding, while Methuen and Randolph would receive slightly less amounts.
For Everett, that would bring up their total funding (including county resources) to approximately $41.59 million. For Chelsea, that would bring their approximate Rescue Plan funding up to $39.61 million. That still trails more affluent communities who weren’t hard hit with COVID-19 by a long shot. Under the original Plan – assuming no more federal dollars were awarded to them – Newton is funded at $65.29 million and Somerville at $79.06 million. However it would bring them on par with communities like Revere, which got $30.54 million.
“As a result of the way the bill was designed, Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph are due to receive significantly smaller levels of funding compared to other significantly hard-hit communities,” continued the governor. “We believe it’s critically important these communities get the resources they need to continue to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. We’ve been talking regularly with local leadership in these communities to develop a plan for the short-fall. As a result of those conversations and with the legislative leadership here, we’re pleased to announce we’ll direct $100 million in additional aid to these four communities.”
Gov. Baker said they continue to speak with the U.S. Treasury Department for guidance on how these monies could be used, which are outside the Plan’s direct allocation to cities and towns. The new plan for $100 million came after long and difficult talks with local leaders, particularly State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino. All worked behind the scenes with the federal delegation since around March 4 to try to remedy the problematic formula used in the Rescue Plan before it was voted on, but for whatever reason, the federal delegation wasn’t successful in helping to remedy the problem at that time.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the allocation by the governor was very positive news, and he said he thanked the state for acting quickly and listening.
“The City of Everett was slated to receive $4.5 million, whereas the City of Newton was slated for $65 million,” he said. “Disproportionate is an understatement. “I would like to personally thank Governor Baker and his team for acknowledging and quickly responding to the inequitable funding of the Federal formula. I would also like to recognize the relentless advocacy of State Senator Sal DiDomenico who has stood by our side through this entire process. Everett deserves this funding and I’m proud to say that our persistence has paid off.”
“After we had many meetings and conversations with our partners at all levels of government, I am grateful that Governor Baker has committed to helping Everett and Chelsea and will be sending much needed funding to our communities,” said Sen. DiDomenico, who was instrumental in identifying the problem to state leaders and creating a new solution. “The original federal funding formula only exacerbated the inequities that our cities have already faced and I am relieved that there is a resolution to correct this problem. I was happy to work with Governor Baker, Mayor DeMaria, City Manager Ambrosino, my colleagues in the Federal delegation and at the State House to get the resources Chelsea and Everett deserve.”
Baker estimated the state would be getting $7.9 billion in direct aid from the American Rescue Plan, and of that $3.4 billion would come to counties, cities and towns – part of the money that was allocated using a formula that left Everett and Chelsea short of equitable funding.
Baker said the additional $100 million still needed to be vetted through the Treasury Department at the federal level for the legality of the move and the potential uses. However, he said it is expected the additional monies could be used for anything related to COVID-19 responses, including economic assistance, replacing lost revenue, and water/sewer/broadband upgrades.