MAUSD and 5-towns net $7.5M in COVID relief

BRISTOL — The five towns of northeast Addison County — Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro — as well as the Mount Abraham Unified School District are in line for roughly $7.5 million in combined COVID-19 relief funding. More than $6 million of that will come from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).
ARPA is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last month.
In Vermont ARPA funding will be distributed for state, county, municipal and school district uses in a couple of weeks, but since Vermont does not have county governments, county money will be split among municipalities based on their populations.
Addison County’s 23 communities will receive a combined total of $10.47 million in municipal funding, which includes their respective shares of county funding, according to an April 14 memo from the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and the Addison County Economic Development Corporation.
Allocations for the 5-Towns are as follows:
•  Bristol: $1.1 million.
•  Lincoln: $370,000.
•  Monkton: $590,000.
•  New Haven: $500,000.
•  Starksboro: $510,000.
Money set aside for school districts, such as MAUSD, is separate and additional.
Communities will have until the end of 2024 to spend their ARPA funds. Federal guidance on how the money may be used is forthcoming.

In Bristol, the selectboard is waiting for that guidance before drawing up spending plans.
“There is not enough information yet about the final details associated with this money for the selectboard to have an in-depth conversation about it,” said Bristol Town Administrator Valerie Capels in an email Tuesday. “We are all still awaiting information … Until then, speculating would not be a good use of the selectboard’s time and their agendas have been very full.”
There are, however, some infrastructure projects that would be high on Bristol’s wish list, Capels said, including:
•  upgrades to the town’s core sewer system.
•  replacement of the water line on Pine Street.
•  upgrades at the water pump house.
•  improvements on Basin Street.
•  new sidewalks.

MAUSD will get its own COVID relief funding, though the source of that funding is a little more complicated than it is for towns.
The district stands to receive a total of $4.4 million over three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, the third and largest of which, at $2.9 million, will be funded through ARPA.
MAUSD is looking at four different categories of uses for its ESSER funds, said Business Manager Floyd Davison in a Tuesday email.
First: “How best to support our students in their individual recovery of learning,” which includes:
•  “Additional staffing and program support to work with students over the summer and outside of the school day.”
•  “Technology support, additional software licenses and equipment for remote teaching and learning needs and to increase access for learners.”
•  “Increase capacity for collecting and using data to inform our recovery efforts across all tiered levels of support.”
•  “Increase support with and from mental health professionals in collaboration with schools and social/emotional learning teams to better meet student and family needs.”
•  “Intentionally focus on supporting preK students, families and staff as our youngest learners transition into kindergarten through programming, supplies, orientation activities and training.”
•  “Staffing and program support to allow for a robust Virtual Elementary School program for the 2020-2021 school year.”
Second: “Capital projects that will provide our schools with improved air flow and filtration, as well as the ability to clean and sanitize at higher levels,” which includes:
•  HVAC projects.
•  Flooring upgrades.
Third: “Continued purchasing of sanitation and cleaning equipment.”
Fourth: “Possible additional outdoor classrooms/cafeteria, additional bleachers, improved classroom furniture allowing for better physical distancing.”
“Our direction has been to look to invest in ways that are not adding to our annual budget and that do not require continued annual taxpayer support as these funds sunset,” Davison concluded.
The state as a whole received $31 million in the first round of ESSER funding, $127 million in the second round and $285 million in the third round, for a total of $443 million.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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