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In a race to meet ARPA deadlines, Council reprioritizes programs

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Posted on: May 9, 2024

By JACOB HUNTING

At its April 15 meeting, the Hyattsville City Council moved to discontinue its mental health youth program and vandalism recovery prevention program, and reallocate the funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) as the deadline for using those funds approaches. 

The funds from the ARPA grant, which were distributed during the pandemic to help cities with public health and economic recovery, must be assigned to programs by the end of the 2024 calendar year, according to American Rescue Plan Program Manager Patrick Paschall, who spoke during the meeting and noted the importance of obligating the funds. 

“If we don’t have any dollars legally obligated by the end of this calendar year, we will be legally required to return them to the federal government,” Paschall said.

Just over 35% of the funding that had not been obligated before the meeting was spread around to a multitude of programs, including rent stabilization programs, public Wi-Fi studies and government employee hires — including a grant writer. 

Contracts for the remaining funding must be in place by the end of the year, and the money must be spent by the December 2026 deadline. Paschall noted the extended timeline, with new bills having to go through committee and public opinions before they can be passed. In his presentation, Paschall said he would “recommend against executing any new projects with ARPA funds.”

Councilmembers, including Joseph Solomon (Ward 5), discussed the complexities of moving the funds around and what programs that have been funded by ARPA would need to continue. 

“If we did want to continue [the programs] outside of ARPA, they would either require a separate amendment to the budget we’re working on now … or we include it in a future year’s budget,” Solomon said.

The mental health youth program was started by the Hyattsville City Council in collaboration with the Hope Center for Wellness to provide free mental health services to children. The project was funded by ARPA, and the council agreed to a one-year pilot program with the wellness center this March, with the program to run from May 2024 to June 2025.

The Hyattsville Crossing Business Improvement District (BID) is one of the programs receiving funds from the ending of the mental health youth program. The Hyattsville BID is an economic development that “allows for collective investment in services and activities to enhance the vitality of a targeted geographic area for businesses, residents, and visitors,” according to its website. 

Solomon mentioned how important the BID is, stating that this district is one of the most important to the growth of the area. 

“Hyattsville Crossing was determined to be a second downtown for Prince George’s County,” Solomon said, “part of the future economic growth for not just the City of Hyattsville but for Prince George’s County.”

During the meeting, funds from the ARPA grant were also reallocated to fund lights along the Alternate Route 1 Corridor for the 2024 holiday season. Councilmember Joanne Waszczak (Ward 1) said she hoped the new lighting would not only make residents feel safer because of increased visibility at night, but also provide a festive look in downtown Hyattsville and increased interest in the area’s shopping centers. 

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