EEDC: It’s always great talking to you and getting your perspective on what is going on in Easton. In particular, we’d love to hear about the American Rescue and Recovery Act (ARRA). Tell us about that.
Mayor Willey (Mayor): It’s part of a program President Biden put into place, probably back in early summer, in response to the pandemic and its negative economic impacts. Some of the key points are that it be used to provide money for: assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits; or to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality; or to respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID public health emergency; or to make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband.
EEDC: How much money will Easton receive?
Mayor: The Town will receive a total of, roughly, almost $16.5 million. We got $8.2 million in August and will receive an additional $8.2 million next August.
We’ve taken the approach of using the money to help as many people as possible and using it where we get the most impact. Right off the top, some of that money was used to fund infrastructure projects that we’ve had on the books but didn’t have the resources to do. A biggie was a replacement fire truck for the Easton Fire Department, which will cost somewhere in excess of $700,000. For the rest, we’re taking applications from various individuals, groups, and nonprofit agencies who are requesting money for loss of revenue.
EEDC: Can you give some examples of how the money was used for businesses?
Mayor: One of those, for instance, was a beauty salon that lost money because weddings were put on hold and a revenue source was no longer available. We had one that was a school facility that needed air conditioning upgrades; we’ve had one for roof repair, and so forth.
We did have many businesses, especially small businesses, that were teetering a little bit on whether they could even stay in business or not. And if we didn’t help them out, the long-range effects of that would be detrimental to the Town.
EEDC: How are decisions being made on applications?
Mayor: We’ve had a point person checking all the applications to make sure they are available to be funded through the monies provided. And then we’re working with the council, once the applications are approved, making sure they comply with the provisions of the law. The council helps judge how they can be paid and in what order.
EEDC: Approximately how many applications have you received?
Mayor: I would say right now in the 40 to 45 range.
EEDC: Let’s talk about infrastructure. Infrastructure has always been an essential part of your administration. I keep looking at all the things going on in Easton. Is part of what we’re seeing is this ARRA money being used?
Mayor: Yes. In fact, we’ve got bids out and requests for proposals for three or four more projects that we’re now able to take care of. One of those that’s very important involves Harrison street in a downtown area where the water drainage is not as good as it should be. So we can now go ahead and renovate that drain and hopefully prevent the flooding of the space and some of the businesses located on that street.
EEDC: How did Easton compare with other towns our size, as far as money allocated? Did you request a certain amount?
Mayor: No, this was a decision strictly made by the Federal Government using some type of formula. At first, we got notified that we would receive somewhere around 14.5/14.8 million, then we got a revised notice that the number was up to 16.4 million. That delighted us because it put us way out in front of most of the towns on the Eastern Shore, with the exception of Salisbury and Ocean City.
EEDC: Do you have any idea how other Talbot County towns are using their money?
Mayor: From what we’ve read in the paper, they took a whole different approach to it using the money for significant capital projects. We’ve taken a route that the money should be used for other purposes. Primarily to help stabilize the small businesses that are suffering.
EEDC: The nice thing is that there is more money coming.
Mayor: Again, it’s pretty important people know that even though we may use up the money before we get everybody funded, there’s a second go-round. And it’s pretty important that people have provided us the application so that we can at least get that on file and get it into the queue.
People should also keep in mind that one of the requirements of federal money is that the money is spent on what you say you need it for and they may, at some point in the future, face an audit to see how they did spend the money.
EEDC: Have you given any thought to how you’d like to spend the next round?
Mayor: it’s amazing how fast you can spend 8 million dollars! When that check came in, and I was holding it, I was shaking because I don’t think I’ve held a check for that much in a long time. And then I thought about all we’re going to have to spend it on and realized we could use three times that amount.
Having said that, we’re going to be caught up with infrastructure projects, and there won’t be as much going to improvements as we had this year. So I think there will be more dollars available to help the small business.
EEDC: That’s excellent news for our businesses. So for people who haven’t yet and would like to apply?
Mayor: They need to go to the Town’s website and fill out the application. If they have any questions, they should call Charlie Connelly directly at 410-822-2525.
For previous conversations with the Mayor, go to: