Acting Mayor Kim Janey held a press conference on August 10 to talk about implementing funds from the American Rescue Plan as the city continues to recover form the COVID-19 pandemic and more forward, as well as announced a community engagement process for implementing the funding.
“COVID-19 has had and continues to have severe public health impacts on our city. It has also worsened many of the economic and health disparities that have persisted in Boston across race and ethnicity, gender, and neighborhood,” Janey said. “Those disparities, the wealth gap, the jobs gap, the opportunity gap for students, and health inequities contributed to the disproportionate rates of COVID in Boston. It also caused deep economic pain in our city, especially for working-class families and communities of color.”
She continued, ”I am committed to lead Boston not only out of this public health crisis, but also to a stronger, more equitable city.”
Janey said that “one of critical tools we can use for achieving this goal” is the funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which is “$500 million of one-time federal funding,” which she said can help “close gaps” in Boston and help the city recuperate.
“We cannot return to the way things were before,” Janey said. “Our only option is to go better.”
Janey said that the funds from the ARPA will “build on the FY22 operating budget” that has already been passed.
“Since becoming Mayor of Boston, I have prioritized listening to community voices,” Janey said. “Today, I’m announcing the launch of Let’s Go Better,” a listening campaign aimed at helping to “inform the investment of an additional $400 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA),” according to a release from the city.
“As part of Boston’s equitable recovery, the City will use these federal funds for transformative investments in public health, wealth building, and job development programs that will close the gap for those most impacted by the pandemic,” the release states. “This is one way the City of Boston is implementing the Health Equity Now Plan, which was presented to the Mayor by the COVID-19 Health Inequities Task Force in July.”
Residents will be able to participate in community conversations as well as take an online survey. Janey said that the City is looking for feedback from all residents, including those who are essential workers, low income families, communities of color, seniors, youth, small business owners, and more.
According to the City, virtual community conversations are scheduled as follows:
• Affordable Homeownership – August 26 & September 16 from 5:30 – 7:30pm
• Supporting Small Businesses – August 31 & September 14 from 3 – 4pm
• Substance Use Disorders – September 1 from 12 – 2pm
Access to Internet & Career Training – September 1 from 5:30 – 7:30pm
• Career Training for Quality Jobs (i.e. green jobs, life sciences) – September 8 from 5:30 – 7:30pm
• Quality Jobs & Childcare – September 15 from 12 – 2pm
More meetings will take place in October, but have yet to be scheduled, according to the City.
“We want to hear from everyone,” she said. The city has a focus on “eliminating food insecurity,” as well as “violence prevention and trauma support,” providing job training, and more.
Janey also announced the creation of an Equitable Recovery Task Force, which consists of “community members and leaders who will help coordinate our recovery efforts across the public, private and nonprofit sectors,” the City said in the release. The group will discuss recommendations for investments in the city for both the short and long term, focusing most on groups most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty is charged with supervising “the distribution of recovery funds for the Boston City Council,” Janey said.
Janey also talked about moving forward with the climate and “environmental justice” in mind.
“Boston has been a leader in climate action,” she said. “We have committed to climate neutrality and updated Boston’s Climate Action Plan.”
Janey has also declared a heat emergency beginning on August 11 and lasting through August 13. Cooling centers will be open across the city from 10:30am-6pm. She advised residents to drink water and “limit outdoor activities to morning and evening hours,” and to stay in shady areas as much as possible. The community survey, as well as more information about the federal funding and recovery, can be found at boston.gov/recover