The city of Bangor will receive more than $20 million in new federal COVID-19 funding that will replace revenue lost due to the pandemic for years to come, city officials said in a city council workshop on Monday.
The $20.5 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which the city can use until the end of 2024, will be a vital lifeline for the city as it faces an uncertain economic future amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangor Finance Director Debbie Laurie said. While some of the funds will go toward directly fighting the spread of COVID-19 — including money for PPE supplies — most of the aid will replace lost revenue, she said.
In the immediate future, the money will be a significant source of funds for Bangor officials as they iron out the budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year. The council is slated to approve that budget in June.
In addition to the money sent directly to Bangor, Bangor is primed to receive a significant chunk of $30 million sent to Penobscot County in the act. Bangor has the largest population in Penobscot County, with more than 32,000 people, and is the county’s largest taxpayer, Laurie said.
The goal of the funds is to allow municipalities to deal with the economic effects of the pandemic without raising property taxes, Laurie said. The issue has become especially apparent as hard-hit Bangor businesses are expected to pay less in property taxes due to decreased valuing.
The city has not directly allocated the money yet, though Laurie presented a plan on Monday that she had crafted with other city officials showing how the money could be used until fiscal year 2024.
Several sources of city revenue have been hampered by the pandemic, including Bangor’s Hollywood Casino, which pays 2 percent of table game revenue and 1 percent of slot revenue directly to the city.The casino closed during April, May and June, but struggled to regain its customer base after reopening.
As is the case in several other sectors of Bangor’s economy, including the airport, revenues have begun to increase again with rising vaccination rates. The slot machines at Hollywood Casino netted about $3 million in revenue in April, only about 15 percent less than revenue in April 2019, the last April before the pandemic.
Other revenue sources that have generated less money due to the pandemic include bus fares, city clerk licensing, the Waterfront Pavillion concert series, parks and recreation programming and the Cross Insurance Center.
The city of Bangor had received about $12.4 million in previous pandemic-related federal funding from the CARES Act and Consolidated Appropriations Act, both passed in 2020.
About $7 million of that funding went to the Bangor International Airport as it paid its expenses amid decreased passenger traffic. Another $4 million went to public transit, including Bangor’s Community Connector bus system. The Bangor Police Department also received more than $65,000 that went to PPE, overtime and travel costs, among other pandemic-related expenses.
As the city faces an uncertain future, Laurie said the money will help ensure that Bangor residents won’t need to bear the brunt of substantial losses in revenue.
“None of us know what the recovery will look like,” Laurie said. “What we do know is that we’ve got a safety blanket that’s going to help us and help our taxpayers.”