Lawmakers Urge Barnstable County to Focus Big, Regional Issues With COVID Funds

Barnstable County Commissioners Mark Forest, Ronald Bergstrom and Sheila Lyons.

HYANNIS – Two local lawmakers recently joined Barnstable County Commissioners to highlight the importance of responsible use of the roughly $41.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding received from the U.S. Treasury for COVID recovery. 

Both Cape Cod and the Islands State Senator Julian Cyr and Plymouth/Barnstable State Senator Susan Moran urged local leaders to use the funds to address the biggest issues currently facing the region, including affordable housing, improving water quality and boosting health care.

They said less money should go to towns directly.

Moran said that the county government style of leadership can oftentimes be a “wonky, somewhat archaic process sometimes,” but still is an effective way to serve the community. 

“This is once-in-a-lifetime funding. I’m here to urge you to move forward in a unified fashion to create true structural change that ensures that every dollar will grow exponentially over time,” said Moran.

“Structural change starts with the very manner in which you decide how his money is spent. This must be an inclusive process in which the public’s opinion is paramount in how this money is allocated. The towns are deciding how to spend their money,  and as the county exists, it is uniquely positioned to tackle regional problems that we have long left unaddressed. ”

Moran highlighted initiatives improving access to clean water, providing septic sewer connection loans, funding a regional epidemiologist and expanding nursing programs as critical uses of ARPA funding.

She also emphasized child care options to allow residents to return to the workforce. 

As ARPA funds can be spent through 2026, Cyr urged the county to move cautiously and deliberately in how it decides to use the money.

He also recommended that the majority of the funds go towards the bigger regional objectives rather than to individual towns, adding that towns can leverage their own money received through the room occupancy tax to fund municipal projects.

Using the ARPA funds for the big regional issues would save dollars for taxpayers, as well, according to Cyr.

“This money is meant to be spent on a regional basis. It’s meant to be spent on issues that we all face commonly across the Cape and it can be spent a lot better and used a lot better if we take a regional approach to these issues rather than divide it up among 15 individual towns,” said Commissioner Ronald Bergstrom. 

An advisory committee has been assembled by the commissioners to advise the board on what priority issues the region is facing. 

An online portal for towns to apply for a total of $10 million of the ARPA funds has also been opened by commissioners.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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