Lawmakers urge Barnstable County to focus on big regional issues with COVID funds

Barnstable County Commissioners Mark Forest, Ronald Bergstrom and Sheila Lyons.

HYANNIS – Two local lawmakers recently joined Barnstable County Commissioners in stressing the importance of responsible use of the approximately $41.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding received from the US Treasury for COVID recovery .

Cape Cod and Isles State Senator Julian Cyr and Plymouth/Barnstable State Senator Susan Moran urged local leaders to use the funds to address the biggest issues currently facing the region, including affordable housing, improved water quality and improved health care.

They said less money should go directly to cities.

Moran said the leadership style of county government can often be a “wobbly process, somewhat archaic at times,” but is still an effective way to serve the community.

“This is once-in-a-lifetime funding. I’m here to urge you to move forward in a unified way to create real structural change that ensures every dollar grows exponentially over time,” Moran said.

“Structural change starts with the very way you decide how his money is spent. It needs to be an inclusive process where public opinion is paramount in how that money is allocated. Cities decide how to spend their money, and because the county exists, it is uniquely positioned to tackle regional issues that we have long left unaddressed. ”

Moran pointed to initiatives improving access to clean water, providing septic hookup loans, funding a regional epidemiologist and expanding nursing programs as critical uses of ARPA funding.

She also highlighted child care options to allow residents to return to the workforce.

Because ARPA funds can be spent until 2026, Cyr urged the county to be careful and deliberate in how it decides to use the money.

He also recommended that the majority of funds go towards broad regional goals rather than individual cities, adding that cities can leverage their own money received through the room occupancy tax to fund municipal projects. .

Using ARPA funds for larger regional issues would also save taxpayers money, according to Cyr.

“This money is meant to be spent on a regional basis. It is meant to be spent on issues we all face across Cape Town and it can be spent much better and used much better if we take a regional approach to these issues rather than splitting it among 15 individual towns,” said said the commissioner. Ronald Bergstrom.

An Advisory Committee has been formed by the Commissioners to advise Council on priority issues facing the region.

An online portal for cities to apply for a total of $10 million in ARPA funds was also opened by the commissioners.

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