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Springfield has committed $100 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funds

skyline of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts
Springfield, Massachusetts received $123 million from the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. The city has now committed or spent $100 million of it.

Money has gone to small businesses, nonprofits, individuals, economic development efforts, housing

More money that came from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or APRA, has been given to small businesses and nonprofits in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts.

After COVID-19 hit in 2020, Steve Williams went to extraordinary means to keep his package delivery business going.

To raise cash, he sold his house. He took out loans.

At the same time, Williams was coping with personal tragedy – the death of his wife from cancer followed three months later by the loss of his mother.

“I was so distraught during that time,” Williams said. “I was on the verge of losing my business. But we prayed, came together me and my family, and decided to hold on to the business.”

He recently got word that he will receive $125,000 from a small business assistance program run by the city of Springfield and funded from the city’s $123 million share of ARPA funds.

“It is an awesome deal, Williams said. “We’ve been going week-to-week, but this will give us a boost and save some jobs, too.”

Williams’ company Throneroom Delivery Service, which is a contractor with Amazon, has about 50 employees.

Mayor Domenic Sarno Wednesday announced a new round of ARPA-funded grants totaling $5.5 million to a dozen non-profits and 45 small businesses, which he said include “many local mom & pop stores that are the backbone to our neighborhoods and provide a very strong economic engine for the city.”

In the last 18 months, the Sarno administration has allocated $100 million from ARPA to nonprofits, businesses, neighborhood councils, and low-income individuals. Money has been set aside in programs to assist in the redevelopment of historic commercial buildings and for home repairs.

As the city’s pot of ARPA money dwindles, Sarno sent a letter off to every member of the city’s state legislative delegation urging them to keep the local programs in mind for spending earmarks in the next state budget.

“I am going to continue to advocate for every dime I can get my hands on for our residents, nonprofits and business community,” Sarno said.

Several of the region’s larger nonprofits are beneficiaries of this most recent round of ARPA funded grant awards.

Baystate Health was awarded $950,000, which will be used to expand community-based services for low- and moderate- income Springfield residents, said Baystate President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack.

“The need is great and the waiting lists are long to get into our clinics,” he said. “We’ve been able to stabilize the finances of these clinics and are now ready to expand them and enhance what they’re offering.”

Square One is getting $450,000 to expand daycare services in Springfield.

Just over $500,000 will go to the Hampden County Sheriff ‘s Charitable Foundation. Sheriff Nick Cocchi said it will fund an employment program for people immediately upon their release from jail.

“This money is going to be used to hire these individuals to go out and do beautification projects – meaningful projects—right here in the city,” explained Cocchi.

Citing a backlog of more than 20,000 applications for ARPA funds, the city stopped taking new requests for money late last year.

The City Council has a newly-created oversight committee to look into how the Sarno administration is spending the ARPA money.

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.