Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro today announced “Dutchess Invests” – providing a broad overview of the priority areas into which the County will direct the $57 million in one-time funding allocated to Dutchess County through the Federal Government’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) over the next two years.
“We have a singular opportunity to address big challenges and make important investments in our community that will provide real return – in the lives of our residents and in strengthening our economy,” said County Executive Molinaro. The federal ARP funding is intended to help communities recover from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including offsetting lost revenues, reinforcing essential services and restoring the local economy. Dutchess Invests priorities will be primarily focused on four main categories:
- Learn, Play, Create: Supporting Our Kids
- Jobs, Infrastructure & Public Safety
- County Parks
- Community Partnerships
“Over the course of my administration, we have been engaged in ongoing dialogue with residents across Dutchess County–through formal public meetings, our town hall conversations, one-on-one discussions, even connecting through social media–and they have made their priorities clear. We are very excited to have this opportunity to be able to invest in the projects and programs that people have made clear they want to see,” said Molinaro. Gregg Pulver, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, said, “This is big opportunity for Dutchess County–a chance to make significant investment that will positively impact people for years to come. I thank County Executive Molinaro for his diligent review of the priorities residents have emphasized over the years, and his willingness to move such worthwhile endeavors forward. I look forward to my legislative colleagues’ thoughtful consideration of – and expeditious action on – these initiatives, so the largest number of County residents receive benefit from them in the most timely manner.”
Learn, Play, Create–Supporting Our Kids ($13+ million)
“Our kids have perhaps felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic more than any others. Their lives have been disrupted in so many ways–taken out of school, isolated from friends and family, even the simplicity of play was stolen away from them. While we can’t give them back the year they have lost, we can empower them with opportunities for them to learn, play, and create so they can thrive as they go forward,” said County Executive Molinaro.
ARP funding will support the County’s Path to Promise initiative including space, programming, partnerships as well as youth empowerment opportunities including:
- Learn, Play, Create grant initiative– a new grant opportunity for 501c3 youth organizations, including libraries, sports leagues, and art and creative programs to help enhance opportunities for children. Many of these organizations are trying to overcome a lost year of fundraising opportunities and enrollment. This will be a one-time funding opportunity for specific purchases or needs, such as equipment, supplies, or other one-time expenses. Program guidance and application is expected to be released by the end of June. Interested organizations can sign up here to be notified when guidance is released.
Jobs, Infrastructure and Public Safety (nearly $11 million)
While Dutchess County’s local economy has been rebounding as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, with the unemployment rate currently at 5.6%, down from the 14% peak at the height of the pandemic in spring 2020; there are many still reeling from the negative impacts of the pandemic.
ARP funding will be utilized for entrepreneurial and job skill development initiatives including:
- Development of a new advanced job skills training center in Southern Dutchess in Fishkill partnership with Dutchess Community College, the Council of Industry and ThinkDutchess to train local workers and provide a jobs pipeline to large scale and small, independent manufacturers.
- Create shovel-ready opportunities at Hudson Valley Regional Airport for development of aviation maintenance facilities to hire students graduating from the new Aviation Maintenance Program now being offered by Dutchess Community College at the airport.
- New Leisure and Hospitality Industry Skills training program, in partnership with Dutchess Community College, the Culinary Institute of America and Dutchess Tourism, to attract and develop new and existing employees in this industry.
- Micro-Marketing Program to help independent, locally owned businesses affected by the pandemic to expand their marketing reach and increase customer traffic and boost sales as previously announced.
Additionally, ARP funding will be utilized for water and sewer infrastructure for targeted development in accordance with comprehensive plan goals in various communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted the critical importance of communication infrastructure to ensure residents and businesses remain connected to stay informed, learn, and continue operating. To ensure all areas of Dutchess County are well connected for emergencies as well as everyday functions, funding will directed to initiatives including:
- Broadband study and Infrastructure investment– to ensure high-speed Internet access in all areas of Dutchess County for residents and businesses.
- Public Safety Communications– countywide interoperable radio system to enhance public safety communications.
County Parks ($17+ million)
“The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the tremendous role local parks play in providing a high quality of life for people. As people sought refuge in a safe, outdoor settings, more and more people discovered the wonders of Dutchess County Parks,” said Molinaro. ARP funding will be utilized for continued investment in County Parks to maintain and improve them with enhancements for today and for future generations to enjoy, including:
- Investments at Quiet Cove Riverfront Park and Wilcox Memorial Park for projects outlined in the Dutchess County’s Parks Master Plan
- Development of the new Lake Walton Preserve as outlined in Lake Walton Master Plan
- Dutchess Stadium improvements, including purchase of the land the Stadium is on, as well as a new clubhouse, seating area, pitching/batting facility and other renovations. The nearly 30-year-old stadium requires some rehabilitation to meet current Major League Baseball standards as the Hudson Valley Renegades are now a Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The Hudson Valley Renegades reclassification as a Class A team, and NY Yankees affiliation, is a tremendous boon, increasing fan attendance and revenues for the County and businesses in the surrounding area. The renovations will create an ongoing revenue stream with a dedicated reserve for projects at other county parks.
Community Partnerships ($9+ million)
“We have always maximized the impact of every dollar spent by working in partnership with our local municipalities and community agencies to address critical community needs. The ARP funding enables us to further strengthen those collaborations with one-time investments that will have long-term impact for these agencies and communities,” said Molinaro.
Expanded Agency Partnership Grant opportunities– funds will be earmarked to expand the Agency Partner Grant program, which provides funding to local non-profit agencies to deliver outcome-based programs based on identified community need. Identified needs will now include food security and ARP funding will be used to ensure no Dutchess resident goes without food. Non-profits will also be able to apply for one-time, funding for capital improvement projects, such as computer equipment, security systems and more.
Municipal Investment Grant program– funding, in addition to the County’s ongoing municipal grant program, for local municipalities to address specific one-time needs including public safety equipment, park improvements, and accessibility projects.
Homelessness & Housing Initiatives– the County will invest in the development of temporary housing center for those struggling with homelessness. Following the success of providing housing at the PODS during the pandemic, the County will continue to bring together partners, who provide centralized job skills and personal finance training, substance-use and mental health counseling, and case management, in a single location to help those facing homelessness access the support they need to achieve permanent housing.
Expansion of Mental Health Services– furthering the reach of the County’s renowned mental health services with a new mobile vehicle that will enhance the 24/7 services currently provided to address those suffering through mental health crisis, addiction and more.
Funding will also be utilized for County Government operations, including restoring critical County Government positions that were held vacant in the 2021 County budget, ensuring the County can continue to address the lingering impacts of COVID-19.
County Executive Molinaro said, “We look forward to presenting and discussing these priorities and initiatives over the coming weeks and months as we access this one-time federal funding. We cannot just spend these dollars, we must invest them. We have always made careful, calculated decisions to spend dollars wisely to support our residents. The projects and priorities outlined for Dutchess Invests continues that careful approach–using a one-time funding opportunity to provide our community with a ‘shot in the arm’ of long-term investments that provide ongoing impact and benefit.”
Several of these initiatives will be presented to the Dutchess County Legislature for approval at the June 14th board meeting including the Create, Learn, Play grant initiative, Dutchess Stadium improvements, broadband study as well as economic development initiatives.
Will Truitt, Chairman of the Legislature’s Budget, Finance, and Personnel Committee, said, “The ARP provides a one-time infusion of federal funds, which must be invested carefully to provide maximum benefit, both now and in the future, for our residents. The initiatives County Executive Molinaro has presented in ‘Dutchess Invests’ mirror the areas our residents have identified as of interest to them, helping to enhance quality of life here in Dutchess County.”