Nashua will be receiving about $16 million in funds from the American Recovery Plan Act — money that will need to be earmarked for specific pandemic needs.
A community outreach effort will soon begin to determine the best use of the funds.
“I think we should be strategic while deciding how these funds should be used to improve the community, and most importantly, I think we need to be mindful that this is a one-time infusion of funds,” said Tim Cummings, economic development director for the city.
Last week, Cummings presented three preliminary concepts to the Board of Aldermen, including spending about $13 million to stabilize the operating budget, contributing about $10 million to expand affordable housing in the city or spending about $12 million to reconfigure Main Street.
Chief of staff Cheryl Linder said Nashua received its first installment of about $8 million in May, and will receive the second payment in May 2022. All funds must be spent by the end of 2026.
Linder said the $16,138,777 can be used to fill revenue shortfalls and support communities and populations hardest hit by COVID-19. Items such as pension funds, rainy day funds, debt services and legal settlements are not eligible for ARPA funds, he said.
Mayor Jim Donchess said it might be best to allocate the money to do something “that makes a significant impact in the community.”
He recommended that $1.2 million be spent to replace lost revenue related to the school lunch program, since meals have been free for the past year, and that $500,000 be used to purchase and install a database backup server for the city.
If the decision is made to spend about $13 million to stabilize the operating budget, Donchess said the payments would need to be spread over four or five years, which would help lower the tax rate during those fiscal cycles. With revaluations taking place, Cummings said this is a consideration that should be explored.
Still, he said the primary concern he continues to hear from individuals and potential employers is the lack of affordable housing in the Gate City.
A series of virtual and in-person forums have been scheduled so the public and local businesses can provide their input.
On Sept. 21 and 23 from 7 to 8 p.m., the Office of Economic Development will host a virtual forum to present the proposed ARPA framework, answer questions, and solicit feedback.
An in-person forum will be held Sept. 29 at 5 p.m.
A virtual business forum is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 10 a.m.
If interested in attending any of the forums, call Amy DeRoche at 603-594-3661 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org