Home News and Features Pandemic Relief Funds Awarded to Montpelier City and Schools Totaled $6.1 Million
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in 2020, the federal government reacted by passing three pandemic relief laws in the space of a year, two under President Trump and one under President Biden. These were the March 2020 $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), which was passed in March 2020; $900 billion in supplemental coronavirus aid passed as part of a government funding bill in December 2020; and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in March 2021. The Montpelier Roxbury School District received funding under all three laws, while the city government received funding only under ARPA. School District Superintendent Libby Bonesteel said the ARPA funding “allowed us to get a leg up with the human resources we needed to make our system of support for our learners more effective” and to fund some “much-needed renovation work to provide better learning spaces for our students,” while the earlier funding laws helped alleviate some costs of the pandemic. Montpelier City Manager Bill Fraser said that “ARPA funding was critical for the city, as it allowed us to reinstate our capital funding. Pandemic-related revenue losses required us to delay necessary infrastructure work and equipment purchases. The recovery money was instrumental in restoring all of those items.” How exactly was the roughly $6.1 million that came to Montpelier spent, or will it be spent?Montpelier’s municipal government received its pandemic funding in two batches, one of $1.1 million and the second of $1.03 million, according to Assistant City Manager Kelly Murphy. The first was received on Sept. 2, 2021 and the second by Oct. 7, 2022, she said by email. Part 1 was spent as follows: $620,000 for road, bridge, and retaining wall work that had been delayed by the pandemic; $420,000 in delayed equipment purchases; and $60,000 to restore the Housing Trust Fund. Part 2 was designated for new projects and initiatives: $75,000 for community outreach; $425,000 for homelessness issues (including public bathrooms); $50,000 for EV charging stations; $450,000 for water/sewer improvements; and $30,000 for the Barre Recovery Residence for moms and kids. The bulk of federal pandemic funds provided to the Montpelier Roxbury School District came in the form of one-time grants allocated by the state Agency of Education. The funds were broken into three parts — ESSER I, II, and III — each funded by one of the three pandemic relief laws. “ESSER” stands for “Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.” Under ESSER I, the school district received $253,143, which was spent on student Chromebooks and the Main Street Middle School library. The district received another $994,201 under ESSER II. Those funds already have or were planned to be spent on a variety of items, including more Chromebooks, three math intervention positions, school board visioning, summer programming, HVAC components, and a new safety camera system. The third and largest chunk of federal pandemic-related funding the Montpelier Roxbury District received was from ESSER III: $2,230,394. Some of the money is being spent this fiscal year, including $70,000 for student teletherapy, $89,000 for another teacher at Union School, and $117,500 for a district administrator for “social emotional” learning (employee costs in this article include both salary and benefits). According to Superintendent Bonesteel, the teacher is being moved into local funding, while the administrator will stay in ESSER III funding with plans on moving that position into the local budget for fiscal year 2025. Two additional “interventionists,” one each at the middle school and high school and costing $88,759 each, were to be funded with ESSER III funds. Bonesteel said that although five interventionists were added between ESSER II and ESSER III funding, “we were unable to fill one of those.” She said two have been moved into local funding, two were moved into Title 1A funding, and the unfilled one remains in ESSER III funding for next year. The largest chunk of the ESSER III funding will be spent in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2023 on several construction projects. These include, at the Union School, $258,000 on a special education space and $195,000 on the Little Gym. At the Main Street Middle School, $425,000 will be spent on the playground, $172,000 on the cafeteria, and $269,394 on the kitchen. At Montpelier High School, $75,000 will be spent on a special education transition room, referred to in the comments as an “apartment mock-up.” The school district received additional funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and ARPA as follows: $403,100 from the Relief Fund that was spent on mitigation measures such as masks, thermometers, cleaning supplies, and ventilation improvements; and $98,901 from ARPA for expenses including teacher training, supplies, and pre-K playground equipment.