Officials in the largest city in western Massachusetts have sketched out plans to spend tens of millions of dollars coming directly to the municipal government from the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan.
Springfield can expect to receive at least $97.5 million in new aid from the federal government – an amount officials described as “transformative.”
"We will use it wisely and we will use the leverage of this investment to make for a stronger city for everyone in the city of Springfield," Mayor Domenic Sarno said at a press conference this week with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA1).
Sarno announced categories where the city plans to spend the money including job creation and economic development, help for seniors, assistance for struggling nonprofits, and housing.
"We are going to continue to stabilize our housing market as we've been doing by helping people pay mortgages, utilities, and rents," Sarno said.
The money will be also be used for capital projects. Sarno said announcements about specific projects would be made later.
" On specific projects, don't worry, I have a list and I know my cabinet heads have a list," Sarno said.
City Councilors are also expected to offer suggestions on spending the funds coming to Springfield. There is a hearing of the Finance Committee scheduled next week.
Officials compared the impact this round of federal aid could have on Springfield to the resurgence that came in the aftermath of the tornado of June 1, 2011. Following the natural disaster Springfield received about $90 million in federal assistance.
With that money, the city rebuilt housing, repaired and upgraded infrastructure, improved public parks, constructed a new neighborhood center and a new senior center.
" If you drive through East Forest Park today, other than the tree sitution, you might not know there had been a tornado because those homes were all rebuilt and the people stayed," Neal said. "Everything has been rebuilt. That was the federal government."
In addition to the money for the city, the Springfield Public Schools will receive $189 million.
Neal said he was proud of the role he played as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in helping to write much of the pandemic relief plan.
"When you consider what the pandemic has caused, there is also opportunity," Neal said.
The legislation will also enable Springfield to fill holes in its municipal budget that are the result of revenue losses caused by the pandemic. The city’s chief finance officer T.J. Plante estimates lost revenue, so far, at $10 million because of lower than projected collections of taxes, fees, and fines.
"With the flexibility ( Congressman Neal) has delivered, it is going to give us a great way to stabilize our budget and continue to invest in the future," Plante said.
Also, Plante said Springfield has spent almost $36 million it did not budget to respond to the pandemic emergency. The city has been reimbursed more than $26 million from the Cares Act and other federal aid.