The federal American Rescue Plan was supposed to be a piece of very welcome good news earlier this year, but ended up being a sharp stick in the eye for Everett and Chelsea when the two hard-hit COVID communities were shorted on their funding due to antiquated formulas used in Washington, D.C. to divvy up the money.
It sparked a tremendous amount of outrage, only to see state and local officials work closely with Gov. Charlie Baker to figure out a way to make up the lost funding to the two impacted communities. On Friday, after some last-minute dramatics, Gov. Baker announced Everett would receive $33.3 million in extra Rescue Act money to supplement the lower numbers they got through the formula earlier this year.
Chelsea got $28.5 million, and Methuen got $26.3 million, while Randolph got $21 million. Those were the four communities that were impacted by COVID and didn’t seem to get the proper amounts of funding through the Rescue Plan.
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico – after being alerted by Everett CFO Eric Demas – was one of the first to raise a bullhorn and begin shouting about the unfair nature of the issue. This week he said he was grateful that the governor was able to work it all out.
“After I brought this issue to the Governor I am grateful that he worked with us to dedicate funds from the American Rescue Plan to Everett and Chelsea,” said DiDomenico. “This has been a month’s long process working alongside the Governor’s administration, our Federal delegation, Senate President Spilka, Mayor DeMaria and City Manager Ambrosino to get these much needed resources to Chelsea and Everett. Our cities have been hit hard by COVID-19 and these federal dollars were meant for that purpose. I am happy to be part of the solution to bring in millions of dollars in critical funding that my communities deserve.”
It almost didn’t happen though last week according to some sources, with a bit of State House drama almost erasing all the goodwill that had been sown earlier this year through the compromise. With the money being used for the four communities coming from a federal allotment to the state, some began to question the nature of it and Gov. Baker seemed to indicate last week that the deal might be off. Almost immediately, State Legislative leaders sent out a statement calling for the deal to remain, for which Baker relented on his position and sent out the money last Friday.
The Administration announced a total of $109 million in discretionary funding from the Rescue Plan to Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph.
“Our Administration committed additional funds to Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph to ensure all of the Commonwealth’s communities received the funding they deserved from the federal relief package,” said Gov. Baker. “These four communities were disproportionately impacted by the virus, and this additional funding will support critical local COVID response and recovery efforts.”
ARPA allocated direct aid to some municipalities based on the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program formula, while assistance to other communities was allocated on a per-capita basis. The use of these two different allocation formulas created disparities in distributions among cities and towns, and Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph are the four designated hardest hit communities with disproportionately smaller levels of federal funding compared to other hardest hit communities. The Administration worked closely with key state and local stakeholders to determine the extent of the necessary additional resources given federal funding levels and local needs.
These four municipalities will be able to use this funding to support costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including direct response efforts, addressing negative economic impacts, replacing revenue lost during the pandemic, making investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, as well as other eligible expenditures.
“As Mayor, I have never been afraid to fight for financial assistance that is so important for our community and our families,” said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. “Our CFO Eric Demas identified the inequity in the federal funding formula contained in the American Rescue Plan Act that failed to recognize the impact that COVID had on Everett. Senator DiDomenico, Representative McGonagle and I have been advocating for months for ways that our federal delegation could rectify this situation. I am grateful to Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito for their continued recognition of the COVID relief that Everett deserves and for their willingness to use federal funds the state received to achieve a more equitable solution for communities like Everett and Chelsea.”