Editorial — Neighborhood Improvement: Ogdensburg Provides Funds for Home Improvement Projects | Editorials

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Since receiving the money last year, city officials in Ogdensburg have made good use of federal funds meant to supplement financial resources weakened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. It was a $1.9 trillion stimulus package designed to help economic recovery across the country.

Part of ARPA was the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. This provided $350 billion to municipal, state and tribal governments. Local authorities have discretionary power to allocate funds to organizations and businesses as well as fund approved government projects.

Ogdensburg received $1,068,179 from the CSLFRF. The city received about half of that amount in 2021 and will receive the other half this year.

Officials offered $173,500 to nonprofits and small businesses and kept an additional $100,000 to help offset lost revenue in 2020 and 2021. Last year, the city sought feedback from residents to determine how much money should be offered to businesses and organizations. This was appropriate outreach to assess Ogdensburg’s needs.

Earlier this month, officials announced another way to use CSLFRF money to benefit the community. City council unanimously approved a program called the Individual Assistance Program.

Homeowners can apply for funds for exterior and interior projects. They can be reimbursed up to $5,000 for approved expenses.

“According to the request attached to the agenda, each accommodation would be limited to a funded interior project as well as an exterior project. Exterior upgrades include paint, siding, facade, soffit, porch, windows, roof, chimney, landscaping and exterior door replacement. Interior upgrades include electrical upgrades, plumping upgrades and heating and air conditioning replacement. The applicant must own an existing home or building within the city limits. The applicant must obtain the appropriate permits,” according to an article published on April 11 by the Watertown Daily Times. “The application must be completed by the owner and must include a professional quote or quote for printed materials and proof of total income for the year 2020 and/or 2021 attached to the application. The application states that owners can apply for both an exterior project and an interior project. However, a distinction should be made by the applicant as to the priority project, as the second project will only be funded if funds remain after the first round of grants. The amount awarded will be based on total income in three tiers not to exceed $5,000 for each project. Refunds will be granted based on the following income limits: up to $50,000 there will be a 100% refund; $50,001 to $75,000, reimbursement will be 75%; and income of $75,000 or more will be eligible for a 50% refund.

“[City Manager Stephen P. Jellie] says every project can be different,” the article reports. “But they can provide qualifying projects with a 20% or 25% payment upfront to get the project started and then pay as they go, or they can just make a full payment at the end and reimburse the owner. They will make this aid program retroactive to the beginning of the year, according to Mr. Jellie.

This federal stimulus package was intended to help Americans get back on their feet. Properly maintaining homes goes a long way in maintaining property values. The Ogdensburg program will help neighborhoods remain viable during this time of economic uncertainty, which will enrich the entire city in the long term.

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