American Rescue Plan funding floods southeastern Connecticut

Jul. 26—Southeastern Connecticut munipalities and venues are receiving millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Among local towns and cities, Norwich received the most overall funding of nearly $30 million followed by New London with more than $26 million. Groton Town received about $8.5 million while Groton City got slightly more than $2.6 million. East Lyme, Montville, Stonington and Waterford each received more than $5 million.

Bozrah, Griswold, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lyme, North Stonington, Old Lyme, Preston, Salem, Groton Long Point Borough, Jewett City and Stonington Borough received more than $20 million combined.

Southeastern Connecticut towns and cities were allocated more than $110 million in direct support while U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney's 2nd Congressional district will see more than $250 million.

The money will come in 2021 and 2022 in direct support for municipalities and through funding set aside for counties. Courtney, in a statement, used New London as an example, saying the city will receive $21 million in direct support for municipalities, and $5.2 million through county funding.

Municipal officials are busy drafting plans to spend the funds.

Stonington officials have begun creating a list of items that could be funded with the $5.2 million the town expects. The initial ideas range from paving and HVAC improvements to money for mental health services, local cultural organizations and help for homeowners to make improvements. Voters will approve the final list.

In Norwich, some of the money is going to an affordable housing partnership. Another portion of the money, $300,000, will be used to support three police jobs once slated for elimination. In addition, funding for human services programs, plans to develop a heritage park at the historic Uncas Leap site, as well as arts funding, economic development and community policing are included in the first half of the city's anticipated nearly $30 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The Montville Town Council has created a committee to manage its $1.8 million in COVID-19 relief funds and has held its first Ad Hoc COVID-19 Impact Study Committee meeting.

In March, Courtney convened a group of five municipal leaders who shared initial thoughts on American Rescue Plan money.

Montville Mayor Ron McDaniel said at the time the town could use the money to offset overtime expenses for custodians and hopefully move forward with ventilation projects at the senior center and town hall.

"Providing this financial assistance right now, in this moment, is exactly what we needed on every level of government," added New London Mayor Michael Passero.

Citing dramatic increases in calls about mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence, Stonington First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said the town was talking about how human services can use some of the money.

Restaurants in Courtney's congressional district are receiving more than $52 million from the American Rescue Plan's Restaurant Revitalization Fund Program spread among 202 establishments. Courtney visited Hot Rod Cafe, Berry's Ice Cream & Candy Bar, 2 Wives Pizza and other eateries in New London last week, all of which received funding from the program. Restaurants can spend the money on payroll, rent, principal or interest on a mortgage, maintenance, supplies, utilities, food and beverage expenses, paid sick leave and supplier costs, as well as anything else the Small Business Administration determines to be necessary.

Money from the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant program, which supports museums, theaters, cinemas and other entities that had to close for a period of time during the coronavirus pandemic, is going to the Mystic Aquarium (more than $6 million), Mystic Seaport Museum ($3.9 million), the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center (almost $1.2 million), the Submarine Force Library and Museum Association (almost $140,000), Niantic Cinemas (more than $280,000), the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam (more than $2 million) and the Garde Arts Center ($830,000), among other venues.

In New London County, 16 museums, nature centers, state parks, historical attractions and more were awarded funding through the American Rescue Plan for the "Connecticut Summer at the Museum" program, including Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Fort Trumbull State Park, Florence Griswold Museum and Niantic Children's Museum. The program makes it so children can attend museums and cultural attractions for free this summer.

Billions of dollars are still available nationwide for programs that have not yet launched applications or programs with applications pending review. American Rescue Plan funds extend to education, housing, child care, mental health, public health, airports, rail and other types of programs and grants. The Groton-New London Airport is receiving $59,000 in pandemic relief grant money while Amtrak is receiving $970 million for the Northeast Corridor. The United Community Services health center in Norwich is receiving $3.3 million.

Funding levels will continue to change as more programs are launched and as more rounds of funding are sent out.