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Brookline ARPA committee recommends $4.225 million in funding

Photo by Emilio Takas/Unsplash

By Lincoln Son Currie

Boston University News Service

Brookline’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Submission Review Committee recommended $4.225 million in funding for housing, social safety net and racial justice initiatives at a meeting on Friday, March 24.

ARPA was an economic stimulus bill that included $350 billion in aid to “state, territorial, local and Tribal governments,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Those ARPA funds must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026.

The committee whittled down proposals by over $750,000 from the original asking prices, according to a spreadsheet provided by the committee. ARPA Submission Review Committee member Brian Kane wanted to ensure efficiency.

“I just want to make sure that we are leveraging these once-in-a-generation dollars as much as possible with the least amount of duplication,” Kane said. “While at the same time ensuring we help the largest number of people.”

Kane said some requested safety net funding might count as duplication because the committee had recommended $1 million in social safety net spending the previous week.

Housing proposals were a primary talking point at the meeting on Friday. The committee recommended that $1.3 million go to Bossman Construction Management for a down payment on a three-family affordable housing unit that Bossman would renovate.

Black N Brown Club (BNBC) Director Ade Ijanusi said he hoped to turn a property into a rent-to-own home for the three low-income families who would live there. Ijanusi said it is currently “impossible” for low-income Brookline families to afford to buy a home outright.

The committee also recommended $500,000 for the Brookline Teen Center to pay for staffing, increased programming and renovations. The youth center provides enrichment opportunities and extracurricular activities to underserved teens in Brookline. Brookline Teen Center interim executive director Paul Epstein said the previous round of ARPA funding was “an absolute lifeline.”

“We’ve seen a massive increase in teen visits and membership,” Epstein said. “Round two ARPA funding would allow us to continue this momentum.”

The other $2.1 million went to community safety net services and racial justice and equity initiatives.

The committee recommended $1 million for Brookline for Racial Justice & Equity to hire a full-time executive director and build a racial equity dashboard that would “track progress, measure efficacy and ensure that we’re moving urgently to address inequities,” according to Brookline for Racial Justice & Equity board member Raul Fernandez.

Fernandez said funding for three years would be sufficient to build a giving program that could independently sustain his organization.

If the Brookline Select Board approves the recommendations, each organization that receives funding must sign an agreement that meets U.S. Treasury regulations, according to Brookline Select Board member Michael Sandman. Once the agreements are signed, the organizations will receive the ARPA money.

After the public portion of the meeting concluded, Kane discussed the difficulties in selecting which organizations would receive how much funding. At times, the committee was forced to pick between organizations with similar goals.

“You have to split the baby, and there’s no good way to do it,” Kane said.

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