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More COVID recovery money distributed in Holyoke

Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy announces allocations for $14.9 million in funds the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Paul Tuthill
Holyoke Mayor Terry Murphy speaks at a news conference in September.

Acting Mayor Murray announces 2nd round of ARPA funds

Another round of federal COVID-19 recovery funds has been awarded in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Over $2.5 million that Holyoke received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is being distributed to 17 programs and projects including violence prevention, youth mental health support, and improving access for recreation on the Connecticut River.

Acting Mayor Terry Murphy announced the disbursements after reviewing requests for funding that totaled $33 million.

“Believe me, they are not easy decisions,” Murphy said. “What I have tried to do, as much as I can -- and I hope I’ve done relatively well -- is provide long term impact as well as some immediate programs that will have long term impact and that has been my goal from day one.”

In September, Murphy announced ARPA funding awards totaling almost $15 million with a heavy emphasis then on housing development and municipal infrastructure. He encouraged applicants who were turned down then to try again, which several did.

“The federal money has made a major impact. We’re going to have a better community because of it and figure out how we’re going to use it to the widest extent possible to get the maximum benefit possible,” Murphy said.

The largest single award in this latest round -- $525,000 – went to the Holyoke Department of Public Works for improvements in its waste disposal operations.

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke was awarded $300,000 for a project to renovate its daycare center that will allow for 30 additional children to attend after-school programs.

Murphy directed more than $500,000 toward efforts to prevent deadly violence. The Holyoke Police Department will receive $138,000 to purchase Tasers and train police in using the nonlethal devices. Also, Roca, a non-profit that provides work and mentorship for at-risk young men, is getting $250,000.

“If we can reduce gun violence, the community is a lot safer and these individuals have a chance for a better life,” Murphy said.

Two organizations, Girls Inc. and Greater Holyoke YMCA, both received funds for youth mental health services. Kathleen Viens, CEO of the Holyoke Y, said it directly impacts services for children ages 2-13.

“We see children in our program every day that just need the help that support the social and emotional skills that with COVID this past year have really suffered,” Viens said. “We know it is going to be valuable.”

Connecticut River Conservancy and Holyoke Rows received more than $320,000 to improve dock access to the river and for a youth boating program.

Again in this round of ARPA funding decisions, Murphy opted not to award premium pay, or one-time bonuses, to municipal employees who did their normal duties last year during the worst surges of the pandemic.

“One of the recommendations is this be part of a collective bargaining agreement,” Murphy said. Most municipal employee contracts are due to be negotiated in the next six months, he said.

Murphy left $1.2 million in ARPA funds unspent. He said he left it for the next administration in case of emergency.

A new mayor, who will be elected on November 2nd , will take office on November 15th.

Holyoke is due to receive an additional $14 million in ARPA funds next year.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.