Norwalk to take action on federal rescue funds

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Wave Staff Report

NORWALK — City officials are expected to take action Aug, 17 on a $28 million plan to help “rescue” the city.

Funding will come from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was approved in March. Norwalk has been allocated $28 million, of which $14 million has been received already, said Deputy City Manager Richard Rojas in a report to the City Council Aug. 3.

The second $14 million is expected to be received next May.

The council tentatively approved the plan and directed city staff to report back at the next meeting with a formal ordinance.

“Projects proposed by staff and considered by the council deal with the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; and/or make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure,” Rojas said in his report.

“The revenue loss category provides the greatest flexibility and would allow the city to fund services or projects that would not otherwise be considered eligible expenses.”

The federal funds do not require a match and could be expended on programs that do not represent ongoing obligations once the federal funds are fully expended, he added.

Among the proposed spending programs for the funds are:

• Public communication: This initiative would invest in building human-centered communications tools to serve the public that will enable information that can be quickly distributed across multiple channels, $1.18 million.

• Community health and crime reduction programs: This initiative would be used to enhance the social services and public safety programs to respond to homelessness issues, $1.72 million.

• Recreation programs for children: This initiative would expand recreation programs that provide classes focusing on cognitive, social and emotional development to children from kindergarten through high school, $1.2 million.

• Small business and nonprofit assistance: This initiative would provide assistance to small businesses impacted by the negative impacts of COVID by enhancing their online presence, upgrading equipment, supporting enhanced outdoor spaces and improving the environment of the neighborhood, $1,726,746.

• Heart of Norwalk revitalization: This initiative would invest funds to prepare a specific plan that will implement the Heart of Norwalk Vision Plan to transform the San Antonio Boulevard and Front Street corridors into a revitalized mixed use neighborhood, $600,000

• Technology upgrades to streamline operations: This initiative would enable upgrades to the city’s technology assets to make smarter, data-driven decisions, deliver more efficient digital services to our city customers, and improve the efficacy of economic investment, public health, public safety and social services programs, $5.82 million.

• Resident assistance: This initiative would provide assistance to residents in need of legal counseling, burial assistance, home repairs and home weatherization services, $2 million.

• Healthy building environments: This initiative would invest funding in the development of a new park and promote healthier living environments and outdoor recreation, $5.3 million.

• Affordable housing fund: This initiative would provide funds to create a community land trust, provide subsidies for developers building low-income housing, and provide funds to renovate and repair existing housing, $3.2 million.

• 2021 revenue replacement: Funds would be used to make up for lost revenue, $2.3 million.

• Premium pay to essential workers: This initiative would provide premium pay to eligible essential workers such as facilities maintenance, transit, public safety and social services employees, $300,000.

• Stormwater infrastructure: This project would help capture and collect stormwater for purposes of groundwater infiltration and recharge, $1.5 million.

• Modernize ventilation in city facilities: Funds would be used to make necessary ventilation upgrades to the Arts and Sports Complex, $200,000.

• Administrative services, $1 million.

Funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026, Rojas said.

He noted that using the funds for city pension costs, to reduce taxes, to match state and federal grants, to put away for future emergencies and to pay off debts or satisfy a legal judgment is prohibited.

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