Southeastern CT leaders discuss how cities, towns will spend new COVID relief funding


NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Cities and towns across Connecticut are already planning how to spend their relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. Friday morning, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-2nd District) spoke to leaders of cities and towns in his district about the impact funding will have on them.

“You’re getting me choked up,” said the Coventry town manager on the Zoom call. “Because it is good news. We’ve had such a hard year.”

RELATED: Gov. Lamont praises Biden for goal to get all adults access to COVID vaccine by May

An understatement for sure. All over southeastern Connecticut, it’s been hard.

“Just in Stonington, our social services division saw a 45% increase in the need for services,” said Stonington First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough. “That ranges from energy assistance to food to mental health services.”

In Coventry, Covid went through police and fire departments and ambulance calls were way up. All that cost towns overtime. They had to make cuts.

RELATED: CT focusing on mental health help for youths with American Rescue Plan funds, Gov. Lamont says

“We were unable to run summer camp,” said Elsesser. “We were unable to run after-school programs, which is essential for parents. We were unable to do youth sports.”

“Starting with yesterday, we are finally going to recognize local governments’ impact in terms of Covid,” Courtney said.

Yesterday is when President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. Congressman Joe Courtney says that will bring $2.6 billion in relief aid to the state of Connecticut and $250 million to the cities and towns of his district. Unlike previous aid, the municipalities get to decide how to spend it.

“We wanted to make sure that communities of 50,000 or less were not forgotten in the formula in terms of the way these funds are distributed,” Courtney said.

A town like Coventry gets $1.2 million to try to get out of a budget hole.

“So, our revenue stopped, but we kept our staff on because we had to gear up for the re-start,” Elsesser explained.

A city like New London gets about $22 million. Mayor Michael Passero (D) says that money will make the difference in getting through the rest of the pandemic.

“We’re going to be better at everything we do but providing this financial assistance right now at this moment is exactly what we needed on every level of government,” said Passero.

It is a lot of different funding, going a lot of places, to pay for a lot of different things, and $1.9 trillion is a tough number to even imagine. Mayor Passero may have said it best: Once all the pieces are stitched together, it will make a great quilt.

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