What is ARPA? How Will West Fairlee Benefit?

You may have heard about Federal funds flowing directly to cities and towns across the country through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). West Fairlee has now received its full share -- a little over $200,000 -- and must decide how to spend it. 

What are the restrictions? Initially the funds were limited to public water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure expenses.  However, last year's amended U.S. Treasury Rules allow Towns and small cities (those receiving less than $10M in ARPA funds) to use them for "provision of government services" -- basically any normal municipal expense. ARPA funds must be obligated by contract or resolution by December 2024; and must be entirely spent by December 2026.  The funds are temporarily being held in a separate interest-bearing Town account.

How should we spend it? It is unlikely that we will ever again see federal aid dropped in our laps like this.  Towns are being encouraged to be thoughtful and strategic about how the funds are spent, not only to ensure compliance with the restrictions on the funds, but also to ensure they are put to their best use for our community.  As a conversation starter, the Selectboard released a community survey in January to measure support for projects in development and to solicit additional suggestions and comments.  The survey results are found at a document link below. (In survey tallies, note that not all respondents answered all questions, and some indicated fewer than 3 top choices.)

How can we maximize the benefits of these funds to our community? There are no restrictions on using the ARPA funds to leverage other State and Federal funds.  The Selectboard has identified grants that might be used to stretch the ARPA dollars.  To be truly transformational, we want to be sure we do we do everything we can to multiply these significant and unexpected funds. 

What's Next? Over 30 residents joined a follow-up meeting January 30 (at the Community Building or remotely via Zoom) to continue the conversation and weigh in on priorities.