Vermont Congressman Peter Welch met virtually with city councils Monday evening to discuss how they will be affected by the recently passed American Rescue Plan.
The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law by President Biden last Thursday. It includes stimulus payments to individuals and direct funding to state and local governments. Vermont at-large Democrat Peter Welch met virtually with localities holding council meetings Monday evening to provide an update on how much funding the communities can expect.
Welch told Winooski leaders that the city and school district will receive direct funds.
“I’m going to have a caveat here because they have to write rules and regulations, but these are the numbers that we’re talking about, all right," Welch said. "Winooski city is estimated to receive $2.147 million. Now that would be allocated 50% in 90 days and the balance in a year. It has to be used for COVID related expenses but that’s broadly defined. The school district is going to get $7.9 million to assist them.”
Welch later outlined the allocation that South Burlington City Councilors should expect.
“The way the bill is right now and signed by the president the city of South Burlington is expected to receive $5.7 million," the Democrat said. "That money will be delivered in two different tranches. One 50% would be within 90 days and then the second tranche would be within a year. In addition the South Burlington School District would receive $3.197 or almost $3.2 million.”
Welch emphasized there is some flexibility but the money must be used for COVID related expenses such as water, sewer and broadband. Councilors in both cities asked questions to clarify potential use of the funds.
South Burlington Councilor Thomas Chittenden wondered if the money could be used to continue virtual municipal meetings.
“As much as we’re all sick of Zoom I’m hearing from a lot of people that they’re going to want to be able to continue to access local government via these platforms," Chittenden said. "So I’m wondering if you would think that investments in capital to improve AV resources so that we can simulcast in these types of environments, and that seems like something that would COVID somewhat related, that might be justifiable to use these funds.”
“Yeah, I think that’s totally reasonable because obviously Zoom and telecommunication like telemedicine has really been essential during COVID," Welch noted. "But we’ll have to see what the rules are.”
Winooski City Councilor Bryn Oakleaf was curious how long the city has to utilize the relief funds.
“I am curious about the timeline that’s listed in the legislation about how long we have to spend it," Oakleaf said. "If there’s a designated timeline?”
“You know I’m not positive on that and my view is that the flexibility should apply to the time within which it’s spent as well as the purposes for which it’s spent as long as it’s broadly connected to COVID," Welch answered.
Congressman Welch’s state director Rebecca Ellis clarified.
“I’m just checking the statute and it says the funds must be spent by December 31, 2024," Ellis said. "So three and a half years to spend them.”
South Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle wanted more details.
“If it’s for capital projects does it just have to be committed by 2024 or spent?" she asked.
“Our interpretation so far is that it has to be spent," Ellis answered. "But we will get more guidelines from the Treasury Department. So that’s what we’re waiting for for the details.”
The state of Vermont is scheduled to receive $1.3 billion in COVID relief funds from the American Rescue Plan.