EVERETT — Federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act could go toward a child care center, a stormwater park and shelters for people without housing under Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin’s proposal.
Everett will get roughly $20.6 million in ARPA funds from Congress to spend on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The city received half of the money in May and the other half is expected next May, Deputy Mayor Nick Harper said Wednesday during a presentation to the Everett City Council. To date, the city has spent $1.5 million on emergency housing and business assistance grants.
In prior public meetings, Franklin said she wanted the money to be “transformational.” The mayor, who is set for another four-year term, laid out her vision in more detail Wednesday night to the Everett City Council. She noted none of the programs have been developed at this point.
“They’re just ideas,” she said.
Those ideas are grouped into eight categories, including business expansion and job creation, early learning and child care, shelter and homelessness support facilities, and behavioral health services and staff.
Per the U.S. Treasury Department, the money can only be spent on public health response to COVID-19, addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, premium pay for essential workers, lost revenues and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure investments.
Total spending in the mayor’s proposal ranges from $17.9 million, which would be covered solely with ARPA funds, to $35 million, which assumes adding dollars from other sources.
Some of the most expensive price tags are $6 million for a stormwater park in south Everett, $3.7 million to expand the city’s small shelter program, and $3 million renovating city property for childcare needs.
Everett must allocate the funds by 2024 and spent them by the end of 2026.
Affordable child care could help guardians and parents return to work. Franklin proposed a grant for $1 million to $1.5 million for a nonprofit to operate a preschool at Everett Station, the city-owned transit center at 3201 Smith Ave.
She also wanted the city to work on the building, to the tune of $1 million to $3 million, so it could host a childcare program.
But Councilmember Scott Bader said he worried about the political pressure for the city to continually fund a child care center while trying to resolve its structural budget deficit. He asked city staff to consider a metric, such as the employment rate, to tie to the funding to keep it from becoming a long-term cost.
But Franklin said the $20.6 million Everett has from ARPA would disappear quickly if used that way.
“Most of those recommendations are so expensive that it would have just taken the bulk of the money,” she said.
Stormwater parks turn infrastructure that manages runoff into a public access feature. Franklin’s proposal would buy land and build such a facility “in underserved and disadvantaged areas of south Everett” with a low range estimate of $3 million.
Even at the low range of $2 million for the small shelter expansion, it would be a dramatic increase in city funding.
When Everett first opened the pilot program of 20 units that’s now managed by the Everett Gospel Mission, it cost about $1.04 million. Almost all of that cost was covered by a state Department of Commerce grant.
In September, the city council approved a $477,000 contract for 40 more units and a two-stall bathroom facility from Pallet Shelter, an Everett-based manufacturer. Locations for those units had not been selected, but the current shelter village on city-owned property has room for another 34.
The council plans to discuss the proposed projects at an upcoming meeting.