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First Selectman’s Corner – October 21, 2021
Things are starting to settle down a bit here at Town Hall as we try to get back to “normal” after dealing with some major issues that required non-stop attention. This included the devastating downtown fire and numerous road repairs that occurred as a result of Hurricane Ida. All along, we’ve managed to do this work in the uncertain times of Covid-19; trying to keep both our residents and town employees safe from Covid and the Delta variant.
One of the administrative challenges we currently face is the disposition of Covid related aid received through the American Rescue Plan (called ARPA). The Town of New Hartford has received nearly $1,000,000 of aid to combat the effects of Covid-19 (this $984,924 payment is the first of two payments – the second of which is scheduled to be received in June of 2022). Take a moment to think about the scope of this legislation. Small town New Hartford has received nearly $1,000,000, and every other town in America has received funding too…. Wow – that’s a lot of aide! Our challenge now, is how and where to use these funds to make the greatest positive impacts here in New Hartford. The regulations that govern the use of these funds are lengthy; with only a few uses (sewer, water and broadband (internet) infrastructure) given “automatic” approval.
Other uses are subject to interpretation as to how it helps our residents and our town as a whole respond and recover from the impact of Covid-19. The Board of Selectmen has received several requests for “grants” for what would seem to be worthy endeavors; for example, our New Hartford Ambulance Association would like to purchase a new ambulance and each of our School Superintendents (both local and Regional 7) would like to make some “air quality” improvements.
While requests like these are certainly worthy of consideration, they fall into a category of governmental or non-profits support, which in my opinion, should be a portion of our plan - but certainly not the entirety. What’s missing from our current list of requests for “aid” is individual/family support and local business aid requests – which is the purpose of my writing today.
Your Board of Selectmen wants to gather ideas from you about how we can use this money (through grants or loans) to help those impacted greatly by the pandemic. The funds have been given to support New Hartford residents and businesses recover from losses during COVID. Have you and/or your business been impacted? Did you lose your job, have your hours reduced or had to take a different job making less due to the pandemic? Did you or someone you know miss rent or mortgage payments as a result of the pandemic? Did your business suffer because of pro-longed shutdown?
The Selectmen need your guidance on the best use of these funds. An initial discussion was held by the Selectmen at a special meeting held on October 14 and now we need to hear from you. We hope you’ll consider sharing your ideas with us. We recognize that it can be difficult to discuss intimate family situations and it’s hard to ask for help. For those of you needing help, but not wanting to attend a meeting (or speak publicly about the specifics of your situation), we can address your need by discussing the situation (with no name) in the attempt to create the parameters for aid distribution for you and those like you with similar family (or local business) situations.
I hope you’ll take the opportunity to send me an email or call Town Hall and speak with Christine Hayward (who is our Social Services Coordinator and therefore understands the value of discreteness) and together we’ll draft a proposal on how best to use these funds to help those impacted the hardest by Covid-19.
As always, if you have any questions you send me a note at (firstname.lastname@example.org), I’m always here to help.
Stay safe and enjoy the Fall weather!
Dan Jerram, First Selectman