Crain’s New York Business: City outlines $5.9 billion spending plan for federal Covid recovery funds

By: MAYA KAUFMAN

September 20, 2021 5:30 AM

 

The city will use nearly a quarter of its $5.9 billion in federal relief funds for public health initiatives to combat the pandemic, increase accessibility to mental health care and support aging New Yorkers, according to a recently released spending plan.

 

The plan, released Aug. 31, details how over 30 city agencies and offices will use the allocated dollars under the American Rescue Plan Act’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program. The funds must be spent before Dec. 31, 2026.

 

The Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, which compiled the spending plan, said its 45 programs “meet shared federal goals of promoting equity, deepening community engagement, promoting sound labor practices and using evidence-based program design.” A City Hall spokesperson said no one was available to comment further.

 

Roughly $1.45 billion is characterized as public health spending. Receiving the most funding of any public health initiative, at $441 million, are payroll-related expenses for city employees involved in Covid-19 response. The Department of City Administrative Services will also use a portion to prepare city offices for in-person work, and the Department of Information Technology will use funds to maintain the 311 call center. The city has spent over $1.8 million to date of what it allocated.

 

An additional $328 million is earmarked for the Test & Trace Corps to continue its contact-tracing program, which involves providing hotel rooms, food and financial services to isolating New Yorkers.

 

A $67 million program for Covid-related public health expenses will pay for Covid-19 treatment for city employees and their dependents as well as provide financial compensation to workers who contract the virus or take time off to get a vaccine or recover from its side effects.

 

The city also plans to devote a couple hundred million dollars to mental health–related programs. They include $160 million for an initiative that provides mental health support and treatment directly in patients’ communities, which will enable the city to serve 675 additional New Yorkers with serious mental illnesses. An additional $112 million will go to expanding a pilot program to dispatch EMS workers and mental health professionals to 911 mental health calls, which launched in Harlem in the spring. NYC Well, a free mental health counseling hotline, will get $17 million.

 

Rounding out spending on public health is $163 million for senior support. The Department for the Aging will use the federal funding to increase senior centers and naturally occurring retirement communities to serve a rapidly growing aging population.

 

The city will use a chunk of the federal funding to pay for the provision of government services, making up for revenue reductions as a result of the public health emergency. Among these allocations is nearly $12 million for the neighborhood support network program, which provides crisis prevention support through community-based social services organizations and faith-based groups. Officials expect it to launch in February.

 

The $5.9 billion from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program is among more than $20 billion in federal funds the city expects to receive to support its recovery from the pandemic. —Maya Kaufman