Congressman Richard Neal came to Pittsfield, Massachusetts Friday to announce that over $41 million of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act will go to Berkshire County.
The Democrat from the state’s first congressional district says $33 million of that funding will go to Pittsfield, the county’s largest community of around 40,000.
“I think that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the city of Pittsfield and for people in Berkshire County to talk about some of the priorities that they see going forward, understanding that the next round up the president has indicated and I’m fully supportive of a major infrastructure bill for the country," said Neal. "I think that these are long term investment, and understanding that as this money has now made its way into the pipeline, you’re going to see an uptick in economic growth for the third and fourth quarters of the year.”
Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal was involved in shaping the bill signed by President Biden March 11th.
The American Rescue Plan Act includes around $5.3 billion in spending across Massachusetts.
“In the past year, my back of the envelope math, the commonwealth has received now with this, it’ll be pretty darn close to $90 billion in one year at a moment where we needed it most. We’re talking about, this is money going straight into residents’ pockets and helping small businesses and helping schools at a moment where we didn’t really know where to turn," said Western Massachusetts State Senator and fellow Democrat Adam Hinds. “This is an anti-poverty bill. This is a working families bill. This is a stronger education bill. It’s really amazing – this is a generational shift in the approach in how the federal government is stepping in.”
Democratic State Representative of the 3rd Berkshire District Tricia Farley-Bouvier was also on hand to celebrate the announcement.
“If this pandemic has done nothing else – it’s done many, many things – has done else, has shown the disparity between individual families, different areas of the country, different communities, and we’ve got to take this investment and do our very, very best work working together – local, state, federal officials – to invest so that our communities come out of this stronger and more equitable,” she said.
“According to the legislation, we will get the first disbursement 60 days after passage of the legislation – so, somewhere in the range of $16 million within 60 days, and then 12 months after that, we’ll get the second disbursement," said Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer. “Our first step is to bring together a small group to really take a deep dive into this new legislation so that we understand exactly what types of investments and programs are eligible for this money.”
The mayor says she’ll then bring in more experts and community members to determine how to spend the federal funding on the city’s pressing needs.
“Housing for the vulnerable is on our top priority, and I imagine that this is a resource that could really advance some of our objectives around housing for the vulnerable," said Tyer. "I’m very hopeful that we can put some of these resources into our public schools, because we know that this year and next year it’s going to be really important for our students and teachers in terms of getting our kids back on track. And so those are two of the things that I’m focused on – also, supporting our businesses and nonprofits. That is an element of the plan.”
Tyer says Pittsfield will have until the end of 2024 to spend the money.