Milford seeks community input on allocating relief funds

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Milford City Hall, Spring 2021

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

MILFORD — The city is seeking residents’ input on the spending priorities for millions of dollars in federal relief money the city received earlier this year.

Under the American Rescue Plan Act, Milford is due to receive about $13.3 million, in addition to other state and federal relief programs.

City officials said there are certain guidelines and requirements that have to be followed when allocating ARPA funds. One of them is that the projects must be related to the following categories: supporting the public health response to COVID-19; addressing the negative economic impacts of COVID-19; replacing loss of public sector revenue; water or sewer infrastructure; broadband infrastructure; and equity-focused services.

Local governments cannot use funds for deposits into any pension fund or general fund, and funds can’t be used for directly or indirectly offsetting a tax increase.

Mayor Ben Blake said the city would carefully consider how to use the federal money.

“This is not a sprint, this is a marathon in terms of how we appropriately target this money so it will be most effective,” said Blake, adding that the next step in the process is to have community input.

“In terms of public feedback, there some requirements that we have to make sure that we roll out in a thoughtful way that is compliant with the federal legislation and federal regulations,” said Blake. “We have to make sure that we are following all of the guidelines.”

Milford resident Sara Bromley is eager to begin the conversation on fund allocation. She recently started a change.org petition as a way to raise awareness about the funds that the city had received.

“This is funding that will come just once this century,” Bromley wrote on the petition page. “We believe that it is imperative that we, the citizens of Milford, have a voice in the allocation of these funds.”

Bromley said she does not read or watch a lot of news, but happened to hear about the ARPA funding in a random conversation.

“I generally feel like that was something that I should have heard about,” she said. “I asked the mayor if the city was receiving funds and he told me that the city was and that there would be a way to have community involvement.”

Chief of staff Justin Rosen said city officials had debated between having an in-person community meeting or soliciting suggestions online before settling on the latter.

“With the rise of the Delta variant, we opted for an online forum that will allow residents to provide submission and still not have City Hall facing a capacity issue,” said Rosen.

Rosen said for the past few weeks there have been internal meetings with a diverse group of elected officials and department heads that have been focused on compliance and breaking down the areas to see what projects the city could do. The group has also been working to establish a system to propose and vet funding ideas.

“The mayor has also had meetings with local nonprofit (agency) leaders to get their thoughts and opinions as well as recommendations,” said Rosen. “But at the end of the day, we’ll be seeking input from any and all within the City of Milford.”

Residents can submit project proposals through a Google Form available on the city website, or by sending an email to MilfordARPA@gmail.com. All submissions have to be sent by Wednesday, Aug. 18.

For more information on the general categories of eligibility, email MilfordARPA@gmail.com