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Schenectady Begins Discussions On How To Spend American Rescue Plan Act Funds

Schenectady is to receive nearly $53 million dollars.
Zoom Screenshot
September 16, 7 p.m. Stockade Neighborhood Association Meeting via Zoom

The city of Schenectady held the first of four neighborhood association meetings to discuss the use of American Rescue Plan funding Thursday night.

Schenectady is to receive nearly $53 million dollars. The city received the first half in May and will receive the second half in May 2022. Mayor Gary McCarthy says the funds must be disbursed by December 31, 2024 and spent on qualifying projects by December 31, 2026.

"So we look at, could we use some of this money for some of our infrastructure needs, but some of the additional money that may be made available in the near future may have the criteria that would be more applicable for the infrastructure upgrades that we would want, whether it's water sewer, or other facilities within the community."

The Stockade Neighborhood Association surveyed residents as to how they would like to see the money spent. Resident Chris White led a presentation on the survey results, sharing priorities neighbors came up with.

“The first is supporting small businesses. And I think we have a number of small businesses in our neighborhood. And obviously there are hundreds of them throughout the city. And much like vacant homes, empty storefronts, bad, you know, businesses can hurt our city. So we want to try to avoid that lift up the small businesses that are just so important to our city. And the first way is through grants. We were thinking that grants, small interest loans for existing or new startup businesses might be a really good way of using the funds.”

Neighbors said they would like to see small businesses given consultation assistance, along with exploring a partnership perhaps with the state Department of Labor to host a citywide virtual job fair, and establishing a fund to help small businesses "navigate the infrastructure of the city government."

"So first priority, supporting small businesses. The second relates to COVID health and safety, another big bucket that was allowed for in the funds here from the federal government. The first priority of spending in this, would be to obviously support local vaccination efforts. A number of our neighbors said that this was a huge priority for them, that they wanted to see the validation of vaccines and their importance. So the number two is to continue the education push to help legitimize vaccines and mask uses as a necessity of our society today. The third item under here is to prepare the city infrastructure for the inevitable distribution of booster shots. I know there's a lot of conversations going on about timing at the federal government. But our neighbors were clear that they really wanted to be supportive of this effort.”

White says the next priority is code enforcement, to prevent housing deterioration while ensuring that all residents have "access to proper and equitable living conditions." Respondents also want the city to make real estate investments.

“This is a really interesting idea, would be to create a revolving loan fund. So a fund where someone says ‘I need assistance in doing this repair and keeping my house up to code.’ The city would give them a loan, you know, prime plus one, something very low interest, and then as that person pays back, it feeds back, and grows the fund.”

White says the last bucket of priorities involved job creation and career training. More community meetings are scheduled over the coming weeks. Again, Mayor McCarthy:

“One of the general things that I'm dealing with is to make sure that we're approaching the opportunity that we have with this money that has come in, in a coordinated manner with the county and with the school district. They also have received substantial amounts of money, and want them to be done in a way where we're leveraging the resources so that we get the most impact for the dollars that we spend.”

The Democrat added he would like to see some of the money go toward modernizing municipal athletic fields scattered across the city.

The City’s Department of Development has released an online community survey to solicit additional public input on the potential use of ARPA funds.

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