ARPA COVID STIMULUS
BCS proposed graduated distribution of COVID stimulus funds and a “People’s Budget” at the last selectboard meeting (July 6, 2021).
A draft of the technical explanations will be available on the BCS website. This is not a final version, but is pending peer review.
In comments at the end of the meeting the board members expressed some confusion about the funds. They no doubt have their own ideas about spending on infrastructure projects and tax relief for property owners. One member of the board actually said that distribution of the money to low-income people would be inappropriate, although the ARPA legislation specifies the purpose of the funds as COVID relief. This would certainly not exclude payments to low-income people.
There is much talk about the new rules coming. The board is probably hoping for some rule change that puts the money in their hands. But the new rules will be about the administrative technical aspects of the funds not about the selectboard members judgements about charity or infrastructure. For instance, the ARPA legislation requires that the funds be deposited in an account separate from the general treasury. Obviously this makes it possible to keep the money separate from the budget, which the selectboard primarily controls.
BCS is proposing that the funds be distributed to households below median income. This would mean significant payments above $2200. If the funds are distributed on a gradual scale, households just below median income would receive less and those with the lowest income would receive more than $2200.
Alternatively BCS proposes the funds be distributed as vouchers, so that people can decide what purposes should receive the additional funds. In this way the legislation can be used to create the treasury of a Brattleboro People’s Budget.
As the guiding body of the town, representative town meeting (RTM) should consider ideas and proposals for the distribution of this serious money. By the town charter, this is what they are supposed to do. And the selectboard, which is usually overworked, should not be burdened with any more work but the day-to-day operations of the town. After voting on specific proposals RTM should send them to the selectboard and the town manager for final revisions and implementation.
If you wish to see a draft of the technical proposal, or share your ideas about ways of distributing the money, see BrattleboroCommonSense.org.