ARPA Inquiry: Money for Rent, Mortgages and Most Urgent Utilities in Great Barrington

Grand Barrington Town Hall. Photo courtesy of the City

GREATER BARRINGTON – Provide economic assistance to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic ranked as the first choice of respondents for a survey on federal relief funds that the Town of Great Barrington distributed last month.

For 51% of those polled, money for rent, mortgages and utilities were at the top of the list of the most useful steps the city could take to offset the effects of the pandemic.

Tate Coleman. Photo courtesy of Meryl Phair

Click here to see the results of the survey presented at the Monday evening select committee meeting by Tate coleman, financial assistant and intern in town hall. A total of 274 people responded.

Of these, 216 were residents of the Town of Great Barrington, including the Housatonic section of the town. Interestingly, at least 12.5% ​​were residents of Alford Road, where Bard College at Simon’s Rock is located, more than double the second highest percentage, Main Street at 5.6 percent. Of the respondents, 52 owned businesses in Great Barrington.

The Town of Great Barrington get a boon from the federal government in the amount of approximately $ 2.1 million, courtesy of the federal government American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). The award was disclosed by Chief Executive Officer Mark Pruhenski in a brief presentation in October.

See the Edge video below of the presentation at Monday’s ARPA Fund Survey Selection Meeting. Fast forward to 4:55 to view the relevant part:

If they identified as having been negatively impacted by the pandemic, respondents were asked to select three options to offset the effects of the pandemic from the nine presented.

Respondents were also allowed to pencil in choices that were not included in the survey. Written responses regarding the use of funds included affordable housing, transportation, and senior assistance.

Respondents were also asked to select up to five sub-categories from the four broad categories in which they would like to see the funds invested. Of the total 274 respondents, 268 answered this optional question.

The most popular subcategories were: money for rent, mortgage, food, utilities, including eviction protection (59%); childcare and healthy childhood services (51.1%); drinking water projects (42.2%); and additional pay for essential workers (39.5 percent).

File photo of a glass containing water from a Housatonic tap and a glass of filtered water.

The sub-category of drinking water projects almost certainly relates to Housatonic hydraulic works, the private water company in difficulty at the service of Housatonic. The city is considering several measures to remedy the situation, including acquiring the business through something that looks like a prominent estate. According to federal guidelines, ARPA money could be spent on building or upgrading facilities, transmission, processing and storage facilities, conservation, and pollution protection.

The survey was also available in Spanish and only two of the responses were in that language. Respondents were asked to indicate their race or ethnicity. Over 80 percent of respondents were white, 1.9 percent identified as black or African-American, 1.9 percent identified as Asian, 1.5 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino; 0.8% as “other” and 13.3% selected “prefer not to answer”.

The ARPA or the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, as it is also known, is a $ 1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and enacted by President Biden in March 2021 to help the country to recover from the economic and health effects of COVID. -19 pandemic and persistent economic recession. The state itself received $ 5.3 billion from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSFRF) and a total of $ 118 billion from the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are restrictions attached to how ARPA funds can be used. The funds can be used to address any of the following five areas: public health; the economic impacts of the pandemic; loss of public sector income; bonus for essential workers; and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

In addition to the survey, the selection committee held a community contribution meeting on the possible uses of the money in early November. Affordable housing, help for Housatonic Water Works customers, and a sewer line extension for Blue Hill Road paved the way.

Pruhenski said he and his staff would work on a summary that includes a formal recommendation to the selection committee. Pruhensky was unsure of when a recommendation would be made, other than saying that it would occur “at a later date.”

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