WOBURN - With loose plans to steer some of the aid towards depleted city reserves and for water and sewer system upgrades, city officials recently acknowledged the receipt of some $12 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding.
During the City Council’s latest gathering in City Hall, Mayor Scott Galvin asked the aldermen to accept the influx of federal “American Rescue Plan” (ARP) funding, which is being appropriated to local cities and towns thanks to a massive $1.9 trillion legislative package signed into law by US President Joe Biden in early March.
According to the mayor, the city has already received roughly $2 million in direct aid that has been allocated to Woburn. In total, the city, as a so-called “non-entitlement community” stands to receive $4 million through the ARP.
The remaining $8 million in funding, which was per the rescue package slated for county-level operations in the state, is being re-directed to Woburn since Middlesex County was formally dissolved as a government entity in 1998.
“[The Massachusetts Municipal Association] advocated for the money that was supposed to go to county governments to be [split-up] proportionately to the cities,” the mayor explained.
“There are four or five purposes we can use this funding for. The number one priority from my perspective is to replenish lost revenue [due to the state’s response to COVID-19],” Galvin continued. “We talked about that issue at budget time. We have a significant amount of lost revenue due to the pandemic and how it impacted some of our businesses.”
The city can also use the money to offset a variety of infrastructure and capital budget needs, and the mayor told the council he is likely to ask that some of the funding be used towards unspecified water and sewer system upgrades.
The City Council’s unanimous vote at the recent meeting was needed in order to accept the federal funding. As Galvin made clear, any decisions regarding how the money will be spent will also require council input.
According to the mayor, though the ARP appropriation is certainly welcomed, a number of neighbors received tens of millions of dollars more than Woburn.
In particular, because the city’s population is below 50,000 people, Woburn missed out on a substantially larger aid package.
“There’s non-entitlement communities, which Woburn is considered, a metropolitan cities,” Galvin advised the council. “The metropolitan cities received significantly more money than Woburn. For instance, Medford, our neighbor to the south, received about $50 million in ARP funding. Arlington received $37 million.”
“We’re not complaining. WE’re still receiving a significant amount of money. But [the $12 million Woburn is getting] is nowhere near what metropolitan cities received.”