The City of Falls Church’s delegation to the Richmond General Assembly that convenes in a special session next week — composed of the redoubtable duo of Sen. Richard Saslaw and State Del. Marcus Simon — will be carrying with them forceful documents from F.C. City officials that spell out priorities for what the City needs and how it intends to allocate the special Covid-19 pandemic relief funding it’s due.
The session, which Simon told the News-Press he hopes will last only a few days, is focused on that issue, as the state has been deployed by the federal government to parcel out its relief funds according to a formula.
Taken together from the Covid relief package, the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) “Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund,” signed into law by the U.S. Congress, the City of F.C. is slated to get about $18 million, half of which hit its bank account earlier this summer, and half of which will come a year after that.
Following a meeting of the City Council’s Legislative Committee Tuesday, Deputy City Manager Cindy Mester is finalizing a document to submit to Saslaw and Simon to take to Richmond on Monday.
Overarching eligible uses for the funds (as delineated by the federal government) include responses to public health emergencies and negative economic impacts, premium pay for eligible workers, provision of government services to the extent of revenue reduction and investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
Prioritizing on the first and fourth of those eligible uses, the City staff focused on two approaches, long-term transformational impact and social equity and resilience to public health emergencies, with stormwater and sanitary sewer improvements and improvements to public spaces the two top priorities, followed by broadband, assistance to residents and improvements to City facilities next.
The allocation of funds coming out of the Richmond special session will involve collaboration with the F.C. City Public Schools, dissemination of information to the public and a town hall meeting in September.
F.C. Councilman David Snyder, head of the Council’s Legislative Committee, said in a statement yesterday, “The key to state funding is not just the general overall priorities but the formulas used to deliver the funds. So we are focused not only on the general categories that will be discussed and decided upon in Richmond but also how the funds under each category are actually delivered to localities.”
Mester told the News-Press that “per capita and direct allocation formulas benefit the City the best,” as well as programs that target vulnerable at-risk communities.
In some cases, she said, funds would simply be allocated, in others there will be a competitive process. Overall, stormwater assistance is at the top of the City’s list of priorities then heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and other improvements to the schools, small business assistance and workforce development.
Involved are emergency assistance (including rent and utility assistance), human services grants for financial assistance, food and software to assist vulnerable populations (through the Community Services Fund), assistance for sewer delinquent accounts, recreation and parks and daycare, business grants, school mental health services, school testing and vaccinations, personal protective equipment, general government testing and vaccinations, pandemic related HVAC or facility modifications, installation of permanent mail drop boxes, contactless plumbing fixtures for restrooms, pandemic facility security at City Hall and the library, homeless shelter pandemic related modifications, contactless traffic signal control and a contactless recycling center.
Also included is essential worker supplemental pay for front line staff including public safety, public health, maintenance workers and other staff interfacing directly with the public during the pandemic.