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June 9, 2022
DANBURY — The city has earmarked 60 percent of its $32 million in federal pandemic relief on bailing out losses caused by the coronavirus crisis and jumpstarting the economy with investments in local business, emergency services and Danbury attractions.
“The leaders of Danbury really pulled together and understand that this pandemic had a generational impact,” said Paul Rotello, the City Council’s Democratic majority leader. “We want to heal the city and moved past COVID.”
Rotello is referring to a $20 million package approved by the City Council this week that allocates American Rescue Plan Act money from the federal government to repair the economic damage done by the pandemic to departmental budgets and Danbury’s neediest families, and to invest in new playgrounds, public safety technology and economic development incentives.
“Our priority is not only to fill the holes that were created during the pandemic but to use the money for one-time purposes so we don’t create new holes in our budget in the future,” said Vinny DiGilio, president of the Republican-controlled City Council. “There is another $12 million (of pandemic relief money) that we are holding in reserve, so this is not a one-and-done type of thing.”
The $32 million in COVID relief that City Hall received is in addition to $36 million the Board of Education received to hire staff and support other programs.
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Specifically, the City Council allocated $12 million to compensate payroll budgets that were drained by hazard pay for first responders during the worst of the pandemic, to replenish budgets of city authorities such as the museum that were hardest hit by the lockdowns, to account for loses in the commercial tax base due to COVID, and to help charities provide for the city’s neediest families.
The council allocated another $8 million of pandemic relief money to stimulate the local economy including $2 million for parks, recreation and culture, $4 million for emergency services technology and trucks, $650,000 for city infrastructure, and $500,000 for local business incentives.
Highlights of the spending package include
$625,000 for playscape repairs, replacement and safety resurfacing at city parks and schools
$1.9 million for fire department trucks and communications equipment
$300,000 to replace spray parks equipment
$300,000 for building façade improvement incentives for landlords
$660,000 for police body cameras and tasers
$500,000 to restore the historic Richter House
$700,000 for emergency medical services vehicle, equipment and technology
Leaders noted that Danbury is bound by strict federal guidelines about how the pandemic relief money can be used, and said they were confident that it was being spent the way the emergency congressional act intended.
“The mayor and the director of finance in coordination with all the department heads and the other agencies in the city are all on the same page with this,” DiGilio said. “This is a collaborative effort.”
Mayor Dean Esposito said the city continued to keep the conversation open about helping Danbury turn the corner on the pandemic and navigate an uncertain future.
“We recognize that there are other needs that have yet to be identified,” Esposito said in April. “So ample funds remain to be allocated to ensure the best outcomes for our residents.”