Lawmakers OK First Round Of Federal COVID Rescue Money
State lawmakers have approved plans for about $160 million in new federal aid flowing to the state under the American Rescue Plan. The money is earmarked for a range of projects, ranging from drinking water and mental health, to defraying the costs of prosecuting abuse cases at what is now the Sununu Youth Services Center.
Committee members, including Manchester Sen. Lou D'Allesandro questioned whether this last item was a valid use of the federal funds, which are eventually expected to total nearly $1 billion over the next two years.
"I just wonder if there is a risk in doing this,” D’Allesandro asked New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. “Could there be a clawback?"
The state has estimated the costs of investigating and prosecuting the abuse cases could reach $2 million. Formella told the committee he believes using federal aid to offset those coast will pass muster with the federal government if the state attributes the need to lost revenue due to the pandemic.
The largest allocation of this initial installment of federal American Rescue Plan money – $50 million – is earmarked for water projects across the state. Another $30 million will be spent on state cybersecurity and pandemic-related computer hardware and software. Close to $25 million would address deferred maintenance of state properties, and $23 million would pay for infrastructure projects in state recreation areas.
Mental health services is expected to be an area the state prioritizes with its rescue plan spending. Under this initial allotment, $21 million is targeted to Health and Human services for that purpose.