Wallingford to receive $13M in federal COVID relief funds



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WALLINGFORD — The town is slated to received approximately $13.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to help people negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Wallingford leaders hope to use ARPA funds to help small business owners who have been adversely affected, including people like Michael Terrace Jr.

Terrace, a Wallingford resident, owns the former Rubin’s Men’s Shop building at 4 Center St.

He purchased the prominent building at the corner of Center Street and Route 5 in December 2019, along with the northern abutting property at 35 N. Colony St.

Both buildings also have upstairs residential tenants. There’s a total of 10 units
between the two buildings.

Terrace said Tuesday that he lost only two of his renters, both of whom lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and has worked out payment plans with others.

There was some interest for an upscale wine bar and cafe in the groundfloor storefront at 4 Center St., but those plans were tabled when Gov. Ned Lamont closed everything down in March 2020, he said.

Since purchasing the properties, Terrace has overhauled the exterior of 35 N. Colony St. — redoing the roof, siding and all of the windows.

Inside, he’s working on renovating the vacant apartments with LED lights, new pine board floors, new tile in the bathroom and back splash behind the sink and kitchen counter.

San Juanito Mexican Store and Classic Cutz Barbershop are still the commercial ground floor tenants at 35 N. Colony.

The Wallingford Democratic Town Committee currently occupies the ground floor of 4 Center St., having used the space as headquarters during election season for several years.

“Even though they're not there making capital improvements to their commercial space, as a normal commercial tenant would, they're helping add to the war chest so that we can make these improvements,” Terrace said. “We're going to take care of the outer envelope, and the tenants will take care of the inner space.”

Terrace said he’s planning to pursue ARPA funding once the town establishes a way to apply for an ARPA grant.

Wallingford’s plan

ARPA was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March, sending a large infusion of cash to states — approximately $350 billion nationwide.

More than $6 billion is estimated to come to Connecticut through multiple ARPA grant programs, according to Lamont’s plan for ARPA funding released in April.

Municipalities receive ARPA funds through the state Office of Policy and Management’s coronavirus relief programs, under guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Wallingford is slated to receive $13,118,305 in two payments, called tranches at the state level, of about $6,559,152 each.

The first half has already been deposited and the other half is slated to come in next year.

Municipalities are obligated to spend the first half of their payments within two years.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Tuesday that the town is working on a plan to disburse the money locally to help people recover from losses due to the pandemic — from individuals who were unemployed to small businesses and nonprofits.

“We are looking to set up a program that allows for applications for funding,” Dickinson said, “and review those applications, and hopefully award a grant to assist in those circumstances.”

If applicants received money from other sources, such as unemployment benefits, they would have to reveal what revenue they received, Dickinson said.

Non-residents would be eligible if they have a business in Wallingford that meets the criteria.

Looking for a consultant

Dickinson put together a request for proposal through the town purchasing department to hire a consultant to guide town officials on the distribution of money.

“We need assistance from an expert in federal programs,” Dickinson said. “There's a lot of reporting requirements associated with the ARPA program, and we need the advice of an expert on it.”

The bid has not been posted publicly yet. The cost of hiring the consultant would be covered through the ARPA funding, Dickinson said.

Whether the town can use ARPA funding on town projects is a “gray area,” Dickinson said.

An example would be upgrading HVAC systems in town buildings with better air filtration systems aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Your loss has to be as a result of COVID. That's not a loss,” he said.

The Water and Sewer Divisions, however, are eligible for funding to help with infrastructure projects not necessarily connected to COVID-19.

“It gets very, very technical as to what would be acceptable, what wouldn't, and that's one of the reasons we want to hire someone,” Dickinson said.

“As part of the application process,” he added, “we're going to have to be complying with whatever information the federal government is looking for later on when they do the audit on all of this. We don't want the town liable for having spent money and then the audit says, no you shouldn't have and then owe the federal government the money.”

The mayor didn’t have a time frame for when the town would start accepting applications for ARPA funding, but said he wants “to move as quickly as possible.”

Currently, the town’s Economic Development Commission is spearheading the effort to manage the ARPA funding distribution.

Other area towns

Every municipality and borough statewide is slated to receive some amount of ARPA funding through the state.

Meriden is slated to receive a total of $36.4 million. City leaders formed the Meriden American Rescue Plan Steering Committee in an advisory role to oversee the distribution of funds.

Southington is slated to receive nearly $13 million and Cheshire listed at $8.6 million.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores



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