Holyoke wants residents’ help spending $29M in American Rescue Plan Act funds

  • Holyoke City Hall, as seen from Holyoke Heritage State Park. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/7/2021 8:59:11 PM

HOLYOKE — The city’s acting mayor is hosting a listening session to discuss how Holyoke should spend $29 million in coronavirus relief funds.

The meeting will take place Thursday, July 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Holyoke Senior Center at 291 Pine St. Acting Mayor Terence Murphy and other city officials will be discussing what Holyoke’s spending priorities should be for American Rescue Plan Act funds, and what current spending proposals are already on the table.

“We’re looking for public input in terms of what they think the most pressing needs are,” Murphy said. “In terms of immediate relief but also long-term benefits.”

The American Rescue Plan Act was passed earlier this year and provides $350 billion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and address the economic fallout. Massachusetts received $5.3 billion of that money, and Holyoke will have $29 million to spend on a broad range of possible projects that will be approved this year and next.

Only $13.2 million in spending can be approved this year. Murphy said the mayor’s office will decide how the funds are allocated, and that he is committed to making the spending a transparent and inclusive process.

The U.S. Department of Treasury has placed limits on what that money can be used for. Possible uses include public health initiatives; addressing negative economic impacts of the pandemic; services to disproportionately impacted communities; infrastructure projects that involve improving water systems or broadband access; revenue replacement for government services; and governmental administrative expenses.

As of July 2, the city has received some $87.5 million in American Rescue Plan spending proposals, according to figures on the city’s website. The proposals include everything from affordable housing projects, broadband development, mental health support programs, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects, food distribution initiatives, rental and mortgage assistance money, funding for the city’s police and fire departments, asthma remediation work and more.

The city is accepting public comments and proposals until July 23. Those comments can be directed to the mayor’s office or to the city’s Office for Community Development.

Murphy said he would like to see some projects implemented that will have long-term positive impacts on the community and can be completed this year. When asked about specific projects, though, Murphy said he doesn’t want to make any decisions or suggestions without hearing first from the community.

“In fairness, I’m going to listen and see,” he said.

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