As part of the Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act, Massachusetts is set to receive around $2 billion in Federal relief aid to help it recover from damage to its economy as a result of the COVID pandemic. This is good news for Belmont, which is estimated to receive around $8 million in funding for a range of needs related to the pandemic. However, the federal ARP money is not unrestricted and won’t solve Belmont’s structural deficit, which is unrelated to the pandemic totals more than $6 million annually, or $19.7M over the next three years.
Federal Funding Doesn’t Change Belmont’s Budget Outlook
Did you Know…
- Almost all of the $7.6m in ARP funding coming to Belmont is restricted or needed for COVID-related expenses. Most cannot be used to cover operating expenses.
- The estimated $1m in ARP Act funds for our schools is restricted to use for summer learning academies, or will be needed for COVID related expenses next school year, such as remote-only schooling.
Funding Is Good For Belmont, But Has Strings Attached
Current estimates from Rep. Clark’s office suggest Belmont may receive up to $7.6M from the Coronavirus Local Stability Fund, and up to $1M from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III. This is good news for Belmont! But the money for our schools will all be needed for next year’s COVID-related expenses, including operating a remote-only school. And most of the money for the town comes with restrictions and will not address our structural deficit of $19.7M over three years.
Money Earmarked for COVID Relief
Specifically, money for the town must be used for responding to COVID, such as by providing assistance to households and small businesses; compensating essential workers; and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. While some funds may be used to make up for lost revenue, current estimates put that amount at around $700K and those funds will be needed for COVID-related expenses that we always assumed would be funded with federal aid.
Commonwealth Warns Towns Not To Budget Based On Aid
As of March 14, Commonwealth officials have strongly advised towns against making plans based on preliminary ARP information and said explicitly that “[Belmont] should not make plans about overrides based on these estimates. The stimulus doesn’t change the fact that delaying the override means we need a bigger, more expensive override next year. Every year we delay only makes our structural deficit worse, resulting in a larger override and costing taxpayers more money. The stimulus money will help Belmont families and businesses. But it does not change the facts about our town’s finances. Passing the override now is still the fiscally responsible choice.