NORTHBOROUGH – Northborough may use some of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for a community wellness initiative program called BeWellNorthborough.
The program would aim to help residents feel included and fight isolation with activities promoting physical and mental health.
“The idea is lots of hands, lots of outreach, lots of feedback and one coordinated marketing effort so that we’re not duplicating things,” Town Administrator John Coderre said during a Jan. 24 selectmen meeting.
How this was developed
A spinoff group from the town’s COVID-19 task force has been formed to focus on the needs of the community. That group consists of Coderre, numerous town departments, the Senior Center, the library, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the town’s family and youth services program.
The Northborough Senior Center had called over 3,000 seniors in an outreach effort in the early days of the pandemic. While one or two needed extra help, Coderre said, everyone else felt isolated and wanted to talk to someone.
Now, almost two years after COVID-19 disrupted life across the region, departments and committees have ideas on how to use ARPA funds within BeWellNorthborough’s mission to support community members. For example, the senior center wants to run a meditation and mindfulness program.
Groups would be able to petition for the funds allocated under the BeWellNorthborough umbrella.
“I think this is a nice way to have people talking and working together to figure out what’s best needed, like a puzzle,” said Selectman Leslie Rutan.
BeWellNorthborough would be a series of programs lasting at least a year, Coderre said.
The town wants to create a community calendar and hire a marketing professional to promote the initiative.
“This is an excellent idea,” said Selectman Julianne Hirsh, who had previously asked for a presentation on the town’s ARPA plan. “I’m already thinking about projects.”
The selectmen are slated to further discuss the initiative during their meeting on Feb. 14.
Northborough will receive just over $4.5 million through ARPA.
The town must appropriate its funds toward projects by Dec. 31, 2024 and spend them by the end of 2026.
The U.S. Department of Treasury released its final ruling on eligible uses for these funds in early January.
Coderre said the ways communities have approached allocating their APRA funds have been “all over the map.”
Northborough is in the process of developing its ARPA spending plan as officials had been waiting, Coderre said, to receive those finalized guidelines from the federal government.
Between the first half of the ARPA funds that Northborough has received and free cash, the town could tackle a number of spending requests for Fiscal Year 2023 that were also presented to the selectmen on Jan. 24. While that list is not the town’s APRA plan, Coderre said it was “close” to what the town would be discussing.
Those 17 requests range from replacing police cruisers to the BeWellNorthborough initiative.