Additional $3 million for transit subsidies under consideration
SOMERVILLE, MA – Somerville’s outgoing and incoming Mayors jointly announced the City’s first major allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars today, dedicating $9 million in funding to childcare, rental assistance, and a Universal Basic Income pilot project.
This joint commitment by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Mayor-elect Katjana Ballantyne comes after the City’s initial round of community engagement seeking to identify priorities for ARPA funding.
An unprecedented local infusion of $7 million into direct childcare supports through mid-2025 makes up the majority of the allotment, which will initially fund affordable daycare and pre-K for children ages 1.5 through 4 years and eventually expand to children from infancy through school-aged. Rental assistance and the Universal Basic Income pilot project each will receive $1 million. The City is also looking at an additional $3 million for a free and reduced transit pass benefits program targeting retail workers, public school students and parents/guardians, and the municipal workforce.
In all, Somerville has $77.5 million in ARPA funds to spend on items such as public health initiatives, assistance for vulnerable populations, and economic recovery. Additional ARPA funds have also been previously dedicated to pandemic emergency and recovery needs as well as an initial investment in staffing to develop the Digital Bridge Initiative to overcome inequities in digital/Internet access.
“I want to thank Mayor-elect Ballantyne not only for collaborating with us on these first priorities since her election, but in particular for championing basic income, housing, and childcare supports while on the Council. Our shared goal with these initial investments is to ensure these programs reflect our community values,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone.
“People who were most affected during this pandemic deserve to be able to get into a more secure position in their lives,” continued Mayor Curtatone. “Before COVID, barriers to accessing quality childcare were already holding back our families, and the pandemic has only deepened the divide, keeping even more parents and guardians out of the workplace and cutting off access to education and advancement. And for many who do have childcare, paying for it leaves little left for anything else. We hope the federal government passes legislation to address these issues, but we do not want to wait for or count on federal action when we have the money to make an immediate impact on families in our community.”
The childcare funds will be administered by the City’s SomerPromise office. Rental assistance will be distributed through the Community Action Agency of Somerville and the Somerville Homeless Coalition. Those funds will be in addition to the more than $2.3 million in rental assistance the City and partner agencies have already distributed. The City will seek out an education institution or foundation partner to help administer and track the basic income pilot program. The administration of Mayor-elect Katjana Ballantyne will take over these projects when she assumes office in January, and both the current and incoming administrations are working together on these items during the City’s transition period.
“We want to make sure Somerville is a city that works for everyone, and these funds give us the opportunity to address many of the equity gaps we need to bridge,” Mayor-elect Ballantyne said. “This pandemic has not hit everyone equally. Some people have kept their jobs while working from home, or even got promotions and raises. Meanwhile, others have experienced major financial and health setbacks or had to expose themselves to a greater risk of catching COVID-19 to earn the money they need to pay their bills. This isn’t free money to spend in a cavalier fashion. It’s money we need to direct to those in the most need.”
“My administration will continue to work with the community to identify the highest impact, highest value ARPA investments to support both our community’s recovery and progress on shared goals,” continued Mayor-elect Ballantyne. “That includes considering further investments in these initial areas as well.”
The City has established an internal staff to manage the distribution of ARPA funds and enlisted the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to help engage every sector of the community as these decisions are made. To learn more about ARPA in Somerville, visit somervillema.gov/ARPA or watch this video of the ARPA presentation to the City Council.
Further decisions about the transit assistance program will entail setting eligibility standards and establishing how to distribute those funds. The process for dedicating the remaining ARPA funds is ongoing. The City will continue to seek community input and assess ARPA-eligible program proposals while triaging to invest in the most urgent needs first.
In March, President Biden signed ARPA into law. This $1.9 trillion package is intended to combat the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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