Journal Inquirer: Towns may get millions in virus aid; federal relief being debated in Congress
The $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief package being debated in Congress could result in millions of dollars in direct aid for area towns to help cover costs associated with the pandemic, U.S. Rep. Joseph D. Courtney announced Monday.
Overall, the 2nd Congressional District could get at least $167 million in relief spread out among its 64 municipalities, as well as more than $100 million in aid for counties in the district, which encompasses all of New London, Tolland, and Windham counties and parts of Hartford, Middlesex, and New Haven counties.
It is the largest congressional district geographically spanning the eastern half of the state.
While final details of the federal package are being debated and could change, several area towns are currently slated to receive significant assistance, including potentially close to $10 million for Enfield, more than $6 million for Vernon, and more than $3 million for Ellington.
Current expectations show that Coventry could receive about $2.5 million, more than $2 million for Somers, more than $3 million for Tolland, and about $1 million for Bolton.
“What I have heard from local leaders is that towns and cities in eastern Connecticut are struggling to manage the fallout from the fiscal and economic impact of the pandemic,” Courtney said in a written statement. “The funding the House is proposing in the American Rescue Plan is a powerful tool to provide much needed relief to our struggling local governments.”
Enfield Town Manager Christopher Bromson said Courtney and state Rep. Thomas Arnone, D-Enfield, conveyed the funding news to him over the weekend.
“We remain optimistic that there will be a vote by the end of this month,” Bromson said today, adding that town officials still need to work out the details on what that money can be used for and if there are any restrictions. “We will wisely spend that money to invest in the community and not for short term windfall.”
Bromson said he believes the federal funding is meant to help stimulate the economy, and there are a number of local public safety, public works, and capital projects that are awaiting a boost and could benefit from the funding.
“I believe this is more broad, and the intended purpose is to stimulate the economy,” Bromson said. “We have plenty of worthy projects if the money does materialize.”
The potential funding to municipalities comes in addition to $350 billion to help states and municipalities, which cleared the House Oversight Committee last week. Connecticut could receive about $4 billion through the bill, including roughly $2.7 billion to the state and $1.6 billion to municipalities, according to Courtney’s office.
“The state and local funds, paired with the K-12 education funding I helped pass in committee last week, will ensure that our towns are receiving the help they need to offset extreme and unpredictable budget deficits brought on by this pandemic,” Courtney said.
Further assistance for municipal budgets could come from hundreds of millions of dollars in relief for counties, including $29 million for Tolland County and $174 million for Hartford County.
Under the bill, funding would have to be used to help cover costs directly associated with the coronavirus pandemic or its adverse fiscal impacts, including to replace lost revenue.
Last week, nine of the 12 House committees charged with negotiating the new relief plan approved their portions of the bill, which along with the remaining three will be combined into a final bill that Courtney expects to be considered as soon as next week.
This month, Courtney announced more than $59 million in federal funding for Connecticut schools, which came in response to his proposal to provide federal aid to school districts that serve high numbers of schoolchildren from military and tribal nations families.
His efforts also led to an additional $12 million to the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System.