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Capital Region Municipalities Deciding How To Spend COVID Relief Funds

Dave Lucas

Federal funding from the latest COVID relief bill is coming to area cities, as officials try to determine how to best spend the money.

President Biden’s signing of the American Rescue Plan came just in time for Albany, where Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan kicked off a multi-faceted "Restart Albany" initiative.

"The city of Albany is receiving $85 million to replace lost revenue, pay for COVID-related expenses and help us to stimulate economic activity that was lost as a result of this pandemic." 

$45.6 million is earmarked for Troy. Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden says the Collar City took a financial beating last year.

"There is no guidance from Treasury yet, and that's going to be key in how some of these provisions are interpreted, what will be allowed what will not be allowed. So, beyond paying for COVID related expenses, beyond making up for some of the lost revenue, it's hard to say how much further we can go at this time. I do expect that there will be that guidance coming out. But I think it will, I think we will see the money before we see the guidance. So we're going to have to be patient. We'll sit on the funds until we get specific guidance on what is allowed and what is not allowed."

Meantime, Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello says councilors and Madden were scheduled to discuss the next steps during a virtual finance meeting starting at 6 p.m.

"I have put an item on the agenda to discuss next step, then, you know the restrictions on these funds. I do believe we'll be able to use it for infrastructure projects."

Democratic Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler says the Spindle City is receiving $1.8 million, much of which will go to police, fire and public works departments. He says despite the infusion of stimulus cash, there is room for more.

“The needs of the city are such that $1.8 million, while helpful, will not go far on its own and given that the federal rescue package also includes significant money for the state, we expect the governor will release the $550,000 state aid payment Cohoes is owed from the approved 2020-21 budget along with $700,000 in approved state grant funds the city is waiting to be reimbursed for.”

Keeler adds he believes that the infusion of federal funding should not be used as an excuse to reduce state aid to municipalities. 

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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