$6.1 million in American Rescue Plan aid coming to Rochester Hills

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 26, 2021

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Nearly $11 billion in emergency funding is coming to Michigan to provide direct aid to state, county and city governments via the American Rescue Plan.

Nationally, the American Rescue Plan is providing a total of $350 billion in state and local fiscal recovery money to assist local governments that experienced tax revenue shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan state, county and city governments are expected to receive their first infusion of emergency funds before the end of the month.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced that Michigan’s state government will receive over $6.5 billion, while cities and counties will receive billions more.

Rochester Hills is in line to get just over $6 million, according to a breakdown released by the U.S. Treasury Department.

“I’ve been advocating nationally for (emergency funding) for some time,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said. “I understand the need that we have locally.”

The funding will be distributed in two equal payments. Barnett said the first check is expected before the end of May, and the balance will be delivered one year later.

While the dollar amount is “substantially less” than Barnett had originally anticipated, he said he’s thankful for any assistance for the city.

“Now my job is to be a good financial steward of those resources,” he said. “We are going to do everything we can to maximize their use, make sure that the city is in great shape for the long term and that our residents and businesses see some of the benefits as well.”

Barnett said the city has plans to put the aid to good use.

“No. 1, it will replace some of the lost revenue we had last year. A lot of it, for us, happened in parks, because we had no softball or baseball or soccer seasons and still had most of the cost, so there will be some revenue replacement,” he explained.

Barnett also plans to use a portion of the funding on infrastructure and helping small businesses.

“We’re talking about putting together a plan — in-house we’ve called it pivot consulting — where we’re helping people who are now in different markets than they were before. So we’re going to use some of it to shore up some of the financial impact of COVID, but we’re also going to live open-handedly and try to help some of our small businesses with it as well,” he said.

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, who helped enact the American Rescue Plan into law, also helped secure the funding for Michigan.

Peters — who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee — said the funding will help pay for “crucial community services and support teachers, firefighters, law enforcement, and other essential workers” across the state.

“Michigan communities have been on the front lines of this pandemic, and it’s critical they stay afloat and are able to continue to provide essential emergency and public safety services,” Peters said in a statement.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit and shut down everyone’s daily lives, Stabenow said, the state’s firefighters, emergency medical teams and other essential service providers kept working.

“Unfortunately, continuing those critical services came at a cost to many in our communities. That’s why Senator Peters and I worked so hard to get this support for our local communities’ vaccination efforts, other essential public services, and small businesses so our economy can fully reopen,” Stabenow said in a statement.

The funds, according to the Treasury Department, are meant to be used to respond to pandemic-response needs, fill revenue shortfalls among state and local governments, and support the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition to allowing for flexible spending up to the level of their revenue loss, the Treasury said, recipients can use the funds to:

• Support public health expenditures, including COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral health care, mental health and substance misuse treatment, and certain public health and safety personnel responding to the crisis.

• Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including rehiring public sector workers; providing aid to households facing food, housing or other financial insecurity; offering small business assistance; and extending support for industries hardest hit by the crisis.

• Aid the communities and populations hardest hit by the crisis, provide premium pay for essential workers, and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.