With a final administrative step – the certification that every town, village and city in Vermont will accept their portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding – the State of Vermont submitted their request for funds to the US Treasury. The funds will be distributed to the state in two portions, each totaling $29,394,122.50 – one in 2021 and one in 2022.
Upon receipt, the state has 30 days to distribute the money to all the municipalities.
Towns should expect to receive the first round of money before the end of August, assuming there are no bureaucratic hangups. Thetford will receive $132,482.50 and expects to receive the same amount again next year. For those who wonder how that dollar figure was derived, it is based on a simple per-capita calculation that is capped for non-metropolitan communities at 75% of the most recent budget prior to January 1st, 2020. The Town will have between 2021 and 2024 to spend the money.
According to the US Treasury the purpose of the money is fourfold:
- To respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative economic impacts;
- To respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to such eligible workers of the recipient, or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who performed essential work;
- For the provision of government services, to the extent of the reduction in revenue of such recipient due to the COVID–19 public health emergency, relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year of the recipient prior to the emergency; and
- To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
Towns will also be required to report to the US Department of Treasury by October 31st of this year to document how they are spending the money and to demonstrate that they are “maintaining a robust documentation and compliance regime.” Since ARPA funds may be used in combination with non-ARPA funding to carry out certain eligible projects, the regulations go on to say, “In addition, recipients should be mindful of any additional compliance obligations that may apply – for example, additional restrictions imposed upon other sources of funds used in conjunction with SLFRF award funds, or statutes and regulations that may independently apply to water, broadband, and sewer infrastructure projects. Recipients should ensure they maintain proper documentation supporting determinations of costs and applicable compliance requirements…”
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) has established the ARPA Assistance and Coordination Program to help towns navigate this bureaucracy and understand what uses are eligible. There are also ARPA funds at the state level that may be leveraged by towns. A town’s ARPA funds may even qualify the town for other, non-ARPA funding.
Overall, this could represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to think beyond the normal limits of town finances and consider projects that have, up until now, languished on the wish list. VLCT will be happy to assist towns to "get those ideas percolating."