LOWELL, MA – On Tuesday night, City Manager Thomas A. Golden, Jr. presented a spending plan to the Lowell City Council for the $75.9 million in federal funds received by the City through the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”)
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Biden in March of 2021, provided $350 billion in emergency funding to state, local, territorial and tribal governments to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The City of Lowell has received $75.9 million in funding from ARPA, comprised of $54.4 million that the City is entitled to as a “metropolitan city” and an additional $21.5 million through the formula-based distribution of funding issued to Middlesex County, given its non-functioning status.
“The City Council has crafted a clear vision for Lowell’s future; one of an equitable recovery for all and I believe this spending plan builds the foundation for a better city for generations to come,” said City Manager Thomas A. Golden, Jr. “I want to thank our federal delegation and, specifically, the efforts of Congresswoman Lori Trahan to secure this critical funding for the City of Lowell.”
ARPA funding must be encumbered by the City by December 31, 2024, but can be spent through the end of 2026. Since taking office as City Manager in late April, the City Manager and his finance team held three (3) public input sessions and a series of meetings with the city’s non-profit community to solicit ideas and priorities by the community. The final spending plan includes key priority areas both of the community and of the City Council, which were formulated over the course of several public hearings.
The City Manager’s spending plan includes investments in the following key areas:
- $13.4 million in various social impact programs to make commitments and investments into key areas; specifically, education/training; public health; social/economic equity; and growing generational wealth. These programs include a wide array of expanded and additional services including: translation, support to victims of domestic violence, an expanded CO-OP team, and weatherization and energy efficiency grants to Lowell residents, among other public-private partnerships.
- $10 million to fund the Lowell Fire Department (“LFD”) apparatus replacement plan. According to a September memorandum from Lowell Fire Chief Phil Charron to the City Council, “The Lowell Fire Department maintains a fleet of 43 vehicles. […] With an average age of 15-16 years, the current fleet situation is problematic.” The APRA funding will allow the City to make a nearly complete replacement of the oldest pieces of apparatus.
- $9 million to fund the Lowell Neighborhood Improvement Plan. The plan will include directed funding for eligible parks projects, water & sewer infrastructure projects, and neighborhood business district improvements across Lowell’s neighborhoods, with a focus on Qualified Census Tracts (‘QCT’).
- $7 million for improvements to municipal buildings. This spending will include funding in school facilities, as well as other municipal building for eligible improvements, such as HVAC/ Air Quality improvements and accessibility (ADA) improvements, among others. The APRA funding will supplement other appropriations by the City Council to make an unprecedented investment in the city’s buildings. Recent appropriations include $2.3 million from the 2023 capital budget, $4.2 million from the Commonwealth in school HVAC improvements, and the latest round of MSBA funded projects at the Robinson, Wang, Shaughnessy, and McAuliffe schools for roof, boiler, and window replacements.
- $10.6 million for improvements to the city’s water and sewer system. The City will accelerate its efforts to complete sewer separation projects in the Humphrey's Brook/ Billings Brook subarea, Tilden Street subarea, and other identified locations to reduce CSOs. Investments will also be made in water infrastructure and to purchase heavy machinery to better maintain the water & sewer systems
- $5.8 million for economic development and recovery in Lowell. These ARPA investments will support small businesses, helping them to address financial challenges caused by the pandemic. The City will employ a broad array of grant, in-kind assistance, and counseling programs to enable small businesses to rebound from the downturn. A priority will be placed on speeding the recovery of the tourism, travel, and hospitality sectors, supporting industries that were particularly hard-hit.
- $4.6 million for support to local non-profits. The City will work in partnership with Lowell’s vibrant network of non-profit agencies to make investments in sustainable programs to aid in the recovery of Lowell’s underserved populations. These programs will include funding for mental health, substance abuse prevention, homelessness diversion, food security, and other human service programs.
The City Manager and his finance team will be launching an online dashboard in the coming months to track and visualize all ARPA spending, online, for the public to view. For additional information, the public can visit Lowell’s ARPA website at: https://www.lowellma.gov/1574/American-Rescue-Plan-Act