Federal relief helping state climb out of COVID slump

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — States were understandably worried about their finances early in the pandemic, but as state revenue outlooks brightened, the demand for more aid seemed out of place.

According to the Tax Foundation, during the Great Recession state tax revenues declined 10 percent. Compared to less than 0.2 percent in the 2020 pandemic.

There have been several federal relief packages passed by Congress; American Rescue Plan and The Cares Act cover a lot.

What are some of Connecticut’s largest cities doing with all that money?

Mayor Luke Bronin from the capital city of Hartford has a lot on his mind: vaccinating a vulnerable community from COVID19 and how to get back to a pre-pandemic bustling downtown.

“A year before the pandemic here in Hartford we had more energy and activity and momentum than we’ve had in decades. You could see it not just on Front Street, but ballparks, soccer, baseball, theatres just feet on the street. As well as a private investment at a level the city hadn’t seen in many, many years,” recalled Bronin.

The city of Hartford – population 122,587 – estimates its finance director will have paid out or incurred $3.4 million in costs related to COVID from March to June of 2020 with an estimated $6.1 million in lost revenue.

Help is on the way!

Last April, Connecticut was given more than $1.3 billion coronavirus relief funding through the CARES ACT. The state set aside $75 million for cities and towns to use for medical expenses, public health expenses, payroll for (public safety, health, human services, and similar) employees responding to COVID-19, and economic support. They must provide the state receipts.

Hartford’s cut – $4.8 million. It will cover costs from the first half of the pandemic. But what about the middle and the end?

Enter the American Rescue Plan, which Mayor Bronin says is the most significant relief for cities and towns: “Funding for vaccine efforts, significant for education, direct assistance to cities and towns across the country to make sure we can not only provide basic services but to ensure we can help our communities recover the incredible damage and destruction the pandemic has wrought.”

Connecticut will get billions from the American Rescue Plan split among the state and local municipalities.

The legislature will have a say in how some of that is spent for a total of $4.2 billion. The state will receive $2,607,685,594 and local municipalities an estimated $1,640,619,508.

A lot of the rules are still being written by the U.S. Treasury Department about what you can spend the money on. Mayor Bronin says he’s focused on Economic Development: “To the extent that we are able to use some of these funds not just to meet the urgent needs of today, but to build a stronger foundation for years ahead that’s what we’re gonna try to do.”

President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan also includes $20 billion for tribal governments and $20 billion to support public transit.

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