EDITORIAL: Southington’s choice with ARPA funding

In contrast to nearby municipalities like Meriden and Wallingford, Southington has chosen not to do the work when it comes to appropriating money from the American Rescue Plan Act. That money is meant to go toward recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and while Southington’s approach may fit the definition it clearly does not completely fit the spirit of the funding, which is to help those most hurt by COVID-19.

In Wallingford and Meriden, council committees were set up to determine how best to distribute the funding. The responsibility should be on these local governing bodies because they are supposed to know their communities and community needs best. But Southington appears to have abdicated that responsibility, and disposed of the advantage of knowledge about local needs, by simply using the money to pay for already planned projects.

The town has $13 million to spend in ARPA funding. It’s not as much as other places, like Meriden, but it’s enough to make a significant difference, to nonprofit organizations that serve the needy and to businesses devastated by the virus. 

“We decided to use it to benefit the entire town,” said Victoria Triano, the Republican Town Council chairwoman.

There were better ideas. Democratic Councilor Chris Palmieri said he would have liked a little more balance between support for the town and for businesses or organizations. He said he would have preferred a committee made of residents and representatives from different boards. “I know other communities have done this,” he said. “This could have been a great way to support small businesses, nonprofit organizations and town departments.”

In other words, more along the lines of what the federal money is supposed to go toward. The approach Southington is taking assumes everyone was equally affected by the pandemic. That is not the case, and Meriden and Wallingford should be commended for making the effort to determine who is most in need. 

That is not an easy task, and involves getting in touch deeply with the community. Southington leaders don’t have to worry about doing that now.


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