The financial picture of Ulster County’s governments brightened considerably on March 11, 2021, the day that president Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan. And half the $70 million or so cash has now come into coffers in the county.
The legislation, passed by the House of Representatives by a party-line 219-212 vote and in the Senate only after vice-president Kamala Harris’ broke a 50-50 tie vote, had been a nail-biter. One changed vote could have brought this particular initiative to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to a halt.
But the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Act Plan (Public Law 117-2), with its considerable consequences for local finances, did squeak by. According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Laura Schultz, the ARP Act was the sixth federal relief package through which the federal government has allocated a total of $5.7 trillion to address the pandemic and related economic fallout directly. The ARP Act included $350 billion in funding for state and local governments.
Three Ulster County local political figures sat in dark jackets early Monday afternoon in sweltering heat at the Ulster County Community College outpost on Mary’s Avenue in Kingston to celebrate what ARP means for local governments. Two, county executive Pat Ryan and Kingston mayor Steve Noble, were major beneficiaries of the long-awaited federal direct support. Ryan’s county government could now count on $34.49 million in federal funding, half of which has already been received and the other half promised in a second tranch a year from now. Noble will get an additional $17.3 million. And the county townships will get about $18.6 million more.
The third dark-jacketed figure was congressman Antonio Delgado, who organized the press conference. Complex congressional discussion had gone into the decisions about how much money would be divvied up and who would get how much. Supporting his constituents, Delgado argued for funding distribution based on the Community Development formula rather than on a per-capita basis, as the $2.2-trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) act had been. The adoption of the Community Development formula more than tripled New York State’s allotment and assured funds for townships in metropolitan areas – all the towns in Ulster County, in the local case.
Although the final congressional votes were entirely by party, the beneficiaries of the adopted formulas did not follow red-state blue-state lines. States in the Northeast and upper Midwest received higher than average per-capita funding from ARP, states in the Southeast and lower Midwest lower than average.
Delgado emphasized the flexibility municipalities have in how they’ll spend the money. Pressed to provide his own areas of generic priority, he listed broadband connectivity, affordable housing, infrastructure improvement, water quality and support for non-profits as among recurrent concerns.
Ryan said the county government’s money could be used for economic development, including infrastructure improvements. Bringing back the former IBM TechCity site to its former role as the heart of the county economy was one of two important priorities. The other was a potpourri: environmental initiatives, support for pandemic-damaged businesses, help with mental health and addiction problems, and the need for affordable housing.
Noble said the city will be preparing a plan for the $17.3 million it’s getting.
In summary, Ulster County is eligible to receive $34.44 million, with other local jurisdictions to receive as follows: City of Kingston $18.66 million, Denning $60,000, Esopus $960,000, Gardiner $610,000, Hardenburgh $30,000, Hurley $660,000, Town of Kingston $100,000, Lloyd $1.15 million, Marbletown $600,000, Marlborough $940,000, New Paltz $1.54 million, Olive $470,000, Plattekill $1.12 million, Rochester $790,000, Rosendale $630,000, Saugerties $2.09 million, Shandaken $320,000, Shawangunk $1.52 million, Ulster $1.38 million, Wawarsing $1.38 million, and Woodstock $630,000.