Since the city received more than $20 million through the American Rescue Plan Act Congress passed in March 2021, local organizations have had no formal way to request a piece of Bangor’s pot, and they still won’t for several weeks.

Bangor received the first portion of its $20.8 million in May 2021, and the second part arrived in January 2022, City Manager Debbie Laurie said Wednesday.

City councilors began building the application process for local organizations to request a piece of that money during a workshop Tuesday. Councilors identified the first step as drafting an application, which could be ready for review by the end of next week.

While other cities and towns across the state already have their ARPA funding at work in their communities, Bangor is just building its process to disseminate those federal dollars. Residents and local coalitions have advocated for months for the city to use the money on building affordable housing and improving access to substance use recovery and mental health treatment.

“The city of Bangor has waited long enough to be able to participate in this process,” Councilor Cara Pelletier said. “We need to get a process out the door because we have a lot of organizations that are looking to do good work and a lot of people who are waiting for that work to happen.”

Bangor is just now drafting its own application process because city leaders expected significant projects within the community would request some of Penobscot County’s pandemic relief fund through its own application process, which it established last spring, Laurie said.

“(Because the county) process has ended, the city is now moving forward with its own application phase,” Laurie said.

The city has distributed $3.7 million total to five local organizations, including the Bangor YMCA and Bangor Public Library, but those awards were piggybacking on COVID-19 relief funding Penobscot County issued in recent months.

This means those five organizations submitted requests for funding to Penobscot County for review and approval, then Bangor was invited to join in with additional money from the city.

The city also earmarked another $4.1 million to ease the city’s housing shortage and homelessness crisis, but that money has not been allocated to any specific entities or initiatives.

Bangor councilors reviewed what the city’s application should look like during a workshop on Tuesday. City staff will then draft an application based on the council’s feedback, though that will take at least a week. It will likely take from three to four weeks for the application to be finalized, approved by the City Council and released to the public, Laurie said.

The city expects to accept applications for four to six weeks and councilors will approve or deny the requests after the submission window has closed rather than considering them as they come in, Laurie said.

Bangor city councilors set major “areas of emphasis” they’d like to see the city’s pandemic relief funding work to improve, including housing and homelessness, mental health, substance use disorder and child care.

Councilors Jonathan Sprague and Joseph Leonard considered whether to set specific goals the city would like the pandemic relief money to achieve. Pelletier said setting specific goals may dissuade people with creative solutions to some of the city’s biggest challenges from applying for money.

“Having our areas of emphasis listed on our application lets people know that’s what we’re most interested in, but I think this is an opportunity to see the creativity of the community,” Pelletier said. “There are lots of organizations that are interested in doing great work who haven’t made their way to this table.”

Aside from asking what the person or organization would use the funding for and who it would serve, applicants will be asked whether they received other forms of pandemic relief funding and if they have any prior experience with federal funding.

Applicants’ answers to those questions will not disqualify them from receiving funding from the city, Laurie said.

Bangor-based non- and for-profit organizations of any size can apply for funding.

There will not be a limit for how much of the remaining funding applicants can request, but the minimum must be $10,000. The city also won’t limit how much of the remaining funding is available to dole out to the community.

The money must be spent on replacing lost public sector revenue, paying essential workers, investing in infrastructure like water, sewer and broadband internet, and helping local businesses, households and communities recover from the pandemic’s public health and economic setbacks, according to U.S. Treasury rules.

Money must be earmarked by 2024 and spent by 2027.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...