MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Friday, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess, Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith and Strafford County Administrator George Maglaras to discuss the approximately $1.45 billion in state and local funding coming to New Hampshire through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
The state government is set to receive $994.6 million with the remainder going to the state’s counties and municipalities. Most municipalities will receive a portion of that funding based on population. Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Dover and Rochester, will receive funding through community development block grants based on population, poverty levels and other factors.
Shaheen said the primary feedback she received from municipal leaders when helping to craft the ARP was the need for flexibility in how municipalities choose to use federal assistance. Unlike the CARES Act, Shaheen said the ARP is designed to help municipalities not just with COVID-related budgetary items, but other local projects that potentially lost funding due to the pandemic.
“That’s what’s important, to be able to meet the needs of each individual locality,” said Shaheen on the importance of flexibility she heard from local leaders. “I’m pleased to say that I think we’ve done that through the American Rescue Plan.”
Smith noted that in Londonderry, one of the primary expected uses for the ARP funding will be PFAS mitigation while Maglaras mentioned solar farms. Donchess mentioned affordable housing, support for local business, broadband and school aid as possible uses and Craig recently released a survey asking Manchester residents how they think the approximately $43 million earmarked for Manchester should be spent.
“With this investment, Manchester residents are looking to improve areas across our city from improvements in infrastructure and recreation, affordable housing, homelessness, education support, support for local businesses and more,” said Craig. “These funds have the ability to make a historic impact on our city.”
In addition to the CARES Act, the ARP joins another COVID-19 support package passed in December and other initiatives, although Shaheen believes the important thing for most New Hampshire residents isn’t which piece of legislation the money is coming from, but whether it is coming.
“I think the public doesn’t generally distinguish between the CARES Act or the December relief package or the extension of the (Paycheck Protection Program), which happened at a later time or the American Rescue Plan. I think they care about is, ‘is there help for me?’, ‘is there help for my family?’, ‘can I go back to my job?’, ‘can I get that vaccination and health benefits when I need them?’ That’s what we’re trying to emphasize, that there’s help for people.”
Shaheen also said that she has heard that equity in disbursement of funds will be a significant factor from most leaders she’s talked to and more local assistance may be coming soon from other legislation currently being discussed in Congress.
She also added that she would keep a close eye on whether the money being added at the local level will play a role on inflation or the cost of items such as building materials, with Smith noting that construction projects have been impacted in Londonderry due to material costs.
On that point however, Donchess said there is no threat of state or federal assistance adversely impacting Nashua’s local economy.
“We don’t get a lot from the state. We need the money and I don’t really see evidence that things are over-stimulated,” said Donchess. “I’m not questioning at all what’s been done, it’s had nothing but a positive impact.”