Abington stands to receive about $1.6 million in federal funding over the next two years, which could allow the town to escape the pandemic, and its economic impacts, without major layoffs or program and service cuts.
With people eating out less and more hesitant to make big purchases, the town is wrestling with an estimated $600,000 drop in revenues due to declines in local meals taxes, excise taxes, and other fees. Abington’s budget writers have been drafting a level services budget for the fiscal year starting July 1st, and hadn’t ruled out tapping into the town’s reserve funds to make the numbers work.
But Town Manager Scott Lambiase said the upcoming infusion of funds from the latest federal stimulus bill passed in February should allow the town to make up any revenue shortfall.
“I’m fairly confident we’re going to go before the town meeting and present a balanced budget,” he said.
Congressman Stephen Lynch said the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also known as ARPA, contains $350 billion to help cities and towns across the country. Abington will receive the first half of its allocation in about 60 days, he said, and the second half next year. The bill also contains $168 billion to help K-12 schools.
Rep. Lynch said communities were “given a level of discretion” on how it can spend the money. One specific goal of the stimulus bill, however, is to help governments replace lost revenue, and avoid layoffs and program cuts; not to burnish reserves.
“We do not want governments holding on to the money,” the South Boston Democrat said.
Lynch was in Abington Thursday morning – along with a group of local, county, and state officials – to help present the town with a pair of checks officially reimbursing it for some of its COVID-19 related expenses. This money comes from the 2020 federal CARES Act, which contained $150 billion to help state and local governments pay for unforeseen costs accrued while battling the pandemic. Plymouth County received about $90 million to cover its 27 cities and towns; Abington’s share of this pot was about $1.3 million.
Lambiase said the town has applied for just about all of that amount to cover a range of expenses, including personal protective equipment for first responders and town employees, hiring additional school staff to manage in-class social distancing needs, laptops and other equipment for students, IT programs that allow employees to work remotely when needed, and vaccine clinics.
The town had already received one reimbursement check for about $277,000. On Thursday, County Treasurer Tom O’Brien handed Abington Treasurer/Collector Sonia Hodge with checks for $599,080 and $117,414. O’Brien was joined by Plymouth County commissioners Greg Hanley, Sandra Wright, and Jarod Valenzola, state Sen. John Keenan, state Rep. Alyson Sullivan, selectmen Tim Chapin, Alex Bezanson, and Jim Connolly, Fire Chief John Nuttall, Deputy Police Chief Chris Cutter, Lambiase, Hodge, and Assistant Town Manager Sue Moquin.