LETTER: Town Has Wrong Priorities for Greenwich’s American Rescue Plan Act Funding

Submitted by John Cooper, Greenwich

To the Editor:  

I got into a bit of a kerfuffle with our First Selectman this week (via email and phone messaging) when I saw a copy of the planned funding for Non-Profits from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the town will receive from the Federal government. (Full report available on the town web site.) Remember, not a single Republican voted for the American Rescue Plan as it passed through Congress. In this town it’s the same party that controls the purse strings.  

$31,399,117.00 dollars is coming to Greenwich to soften the hardships brought about by COVID and the pandemic it unleashed.  

The Rescue Plan will provide needed relief to state, local, and Tribal governments to enable them to continue to support the public health response and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable economic recovery. In addition to helping these governments address the revenue losses they have experienced as a result of the crisis, it will help them cover the costs incurred due responding to the public health emergency and provide support for a recovery – including through assistance to households, small businesses and non profits, aid to impacted industries, and support for essential workers. It will also provide resources for state, local, and Tribal governments to invest in infrastructure, including water, sewer, and broadband services.  

Nowhere does it say to use $10,000,000 to remediate tainted fields at GHS, because town government looked the other way when they were installed. They knew full well that the underlying soil was toxic but went ahead anyway. Another $16,000,000 went to buildings, sewers, water, as allowed. Well, there goes the lions share spent…

On to Non-Profit Funding. Of $4,886,015 requested, $1,329,097 was granted to various NPs in town. How the First Selectman’s committee and the BET (controlled by Republicans) could ignore most of the organizations that care for the very neediest of Greenwich residents is appalling to me and should be to you. I can only imagine none of those involved are aware that several our neighbors can’t grocery shop the 4th week of the month, as the money has run out, so they wait till the 1st for their next check. Even worse are those that subsist on EBT cards which sometimes don’t work so they go hungry. I have personally witnessed this, it’s not an anecdote!  

The first thing to know is NO local NP has ever had “enough money” to deliver their programming, any year. It’s a struggle from day one and never ends, and shame on anyone who suggests otherwise. The YWCA of today delivers truly significant and invaluable programming to town residents, their requested funding for a new and crucial program was denied. (Full report available on the town web site, see page28, items 24 and 24a.)

Second, the town’s Department of Human Services is woefully under funded and even their “found money” allocation has been cut. The list includes a few “nice to haves” in town that got funding, but some of the neediest went begging. Your children recognize the distinction (or I at least hope so) between a want and a need.

We NEED to start making health and human services a priority in town and kick the “not truly needed” beautification can down the road.

ARPA was an opportunity to help thousands of people through grants to vital existing programs. We as a town had a perfect opportunity to raise our citizens in poverty to a healthier position. We squandered it!