A way for local organizations to request some of the more than $20 million Bangor received in pandemic relief money is on its way, but not ready yet.
A formal application for organizations to request funding is expected to be released to the public April 1 after Bangor city councilors reviewed the draft application Monday night.
Releasing the application to the public will be the first sign of progress in the city’s responsibility to distribute the $20.8 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. Meanwhile, other Maine communities have been distributing their pots of pandemic relief money and reaping the benefits.
Councilor Cara Pelletier encouraged councilors and city leaders on Monday to meet more frequently to speed up the process of finalizing and publishing the application so the city can begin allocating money.
“It would be great if the council could keep their foot on the gas pedal with ARPA,” Pelletier said. “It has been a month since we had a specific ARPA workshop and I would like to see us moving much more quickly.”
Bangor received the first portion of its $20.8 million in May 2021. The second part arrived in January 2022. The money must be earmarked by 2024 and spent by 2027.
The city is also exploring contracting a United Way of Eastern Maine committee to accept, review and screen the applications the city receives, City Manager Debbie Laurie said. The committee would make approval recommendations, but Bangor councilors will be able to assess all the applications. The partnership would cost the city no more than $10,000, Laurie said.
Councilors plan to consider requests after the submission window has closed rather than making decisions as they come in.
Applicants will need to specify how much money they’re requesting, what the money will be used for, and how that funding will benefit Bangor residents, according to the draft application.
Applicants will also need to identify negative impacts they suffered as a result of the pandemic, such as staffing shortages, a decrease in revenue or unexpected expenses.
The application also asks whether applicants received other forms of federal or state assistance during the pandemic, such as Paycheck Protection Program loans or funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Last month, the council set eight “areas of emphasis” it would like to see the relief money used for, including mental health, substance use disorder, job training, aid to non-profits, small business support, housing, homelessness and childcare. Applicants will need to identify which of those areas the money they’re requesting will aid.
The U.S. Treasury rules mandate 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.
The city distributed $3.7 million of its pot to five local organizations, including the Bangor YMCA and Bangor Public Library, earlier this year. Those 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 held off drafting its own application process until local organizations had a chance to apply for Penobscot County’s pandemic relief funding, Laurie said.