By Collin Riviello
At the Dec. 20, 2021, Hyattsville City Council meeting, the council viewed a presentation on a proposed timeline for the city’s distribution of federal funds for COVID-19 relief aid. The city was awarded almost $18 million in aid, which must be spent over the next five years.
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) awarded the city $17,961,280.56 to help cover pandemic-related expenses. Hyattsville received $8.9 million this past summer and will receive the balance in summer 2022. The city must allocate these funds by the end of 2024 and spend them by Dec. 31, 2026.
In an interview with the Hyattsville Life & Times, Hyattsville American Rescue Plan Program Manager Patrick Paschall, who gave the Dec. 20 presentation, emphasized a people-first approach towards distributing the money, a targeted approach that aims to support those most financially impacted by the pandemic. Paschall, who started as program manager in October 2021, said the city plans to launch public information campaigns and hold discussion sessions with residents throughout January about how to best serve the needs of the community.
“It is important for us to recognize both the opportunity we have here for big-picture, long-term change and the obligation we have here for urgent community relief,” said Paschall. “What are the emergency relief packages that the people in our community need? How can the city use this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvest back into our community in a way that puts people first? Balancing those needs is probably going to be the biggest challenge that we experience in managing the rescue plan.”
Paschall served as a Ward 3 Hyattsville city councilmember from 2013-2017. He is a civil rights attorney with expertise in LGBTQ anti-discrimination policies. In 2013, Paschall sponsored and helped enact Hyattsville’s first anti-discrimination law for transgender people in employment, housing and real-estate transactions, and public accommodations. A Democrat, he is running in the June 28 election for a seat in Maryland’s House of Delegates.
At the beginning of this new year, however, Paschall’s — and the city’s — main focus is on establishing an administrative base and contracting legal services to assist in navigating the ARPA fund guidelines.
Hyattsville can only use the funds to cover pandemic-related costs incurred after March 3, 2021, with exceptions for direct assistance to households, assistance to small businesses and nonprofits, and for retroactive premium pay.
Eligible categories of uses for ARPA funds include providing public health services like COVID-19 vaccinations; upgrading water and sewage lines; improving broadband access; hiring workers to manage the city’s ARPA account; and replacing expected revenues that were lost as a result of the shutdown.
After setting up an administrative base, the city will focus on creating blueprints for vaccination incentives; food, housing and insurance premium assistance programs; and small business and nonprofit assistance programs. Paschall said he expects that the council will discuss the application process for these programs by late March. Paschall hopes to have online applications up and running by late spring, but stressed that nothing is set in stone.
The council then plans to shift its focus to long-term needs, like sewage system upgrades. The timeline projects that ARPA funds would allow the city to begin a number of studies — a business retention and engagement study, and an updated transportation study — by the first quarter of 2023.
The city has already allocated approximately $2.5 million in ARPA funds, with about $600,000 going towards the city’s general funds to pay off previous council-approved expenditures, including replacing the Hyattsville Municipal Building’s HVAC system, that fall in line with ARPA guidelines. Other allocations include $550,200 for grants/donations, $500,000 for contracted services, $450,000 to cover IT expenses, $272,800 for professional services, $110,000 for salaries and benefits, and $10,000 for supplies.
Collin Riviello was an intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.