The American Rescue Plan is the second wave of COVID-19 relief coming from the federal government, one that is having a big impact right here at home.
The $1.9 trillion package is aimed at speeding economic recovery from the pandemic. It includes provisions for an increase in the federal minimum wage, direct checks for Americans making $75,000 or less a year, an extension of federal unemployment benefits, more money for small businesses, and lower health insurance premiums.
The American Rescue Plan also includes $195 billion that will go directly to states and the District of Columbia. All states will get a base of $500 million, with the rest of their share determined by their unemployment rate. The higher the rate, the larger the share. Oregon will bring in $4.2 billion in state recovery funds, according to the League of Oregon Cities, with $680 million going directly to cities.
Fairview will see $1.9 million over two years. Half our COVID-19 relief money should arrive in June, the other half in June 2022. Here’s what I can tell you. The money, for Fairview and other cities, is sweet relief.
We’ve lost a lot of money in business income taxes due to COVID, and also had to spend to hire a COVID relief specialist to help administer local, state, and federal aid to residents and small business owners. (Two people have held that job, Cristal Otero and Jillian Daley, two Portland State University Hatfield Resident Fellows and real local heroes).
The American Rescue Plan funds we’ll get this summer will allow us to hire COVID relief specialists for another full year – and help us plug some budget holes. Here’s how we plan to spend that first batch of $975,000 in the coming fiscal year:
1) PSU Hatfield Resident Fellow: ($50,000) This position would function as a COVID-19 response specialist. The fellowship will be for eight months.
2) Covid-19 Response Specialist: ($38,000) A part-time employee for six months to provide information and develop and run programs to help the community. This position will be hired in the second half of the year, after the PSU Fellow has completed their fellowship.
3) Financial Assistance to Residents and Businesses: ($327,000) We will put $66,000 into utility assistance for residents and businesses, increasing the amount of assistance for a household to $500 - doubling our initial investment in this program. We will put $261,000 into Fairview Strong, a grant program for businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic. This will also double Fairview’s investment in that program.
4) Un-designated Revenues in the General Fund: ($231,665) The American Rescue Plan allows the city to reimburse itself for lost pandemic revenues it lost, including $120,652 in lost business income tax, plus other lost revenue such as motel taxes and business license fees.
5) Restricted Reserve in the General Fund: ($328,335) The remaining funds from the city’s first American Rescue Plan allocation will be placed in restricted reserve for the city council to access as it determines other ways to spend these funds to help the community recover.
I’ll be writing more here in a few weeks about some big budget issues looming in the months and years ahead. For now, thank President Joe Biden and members of Congress, who made the American Rescue Plan possible. Money in that plan will keep Fairview businesses afloat – and, perhaps, your neighbor above water as well.