February 23, 2024
Bangor, Maine has done nothing with their ARPA funds beyond collecting interest. Time to ask some hard questions about how these funds are kept.

In today’s e-mail I am going to dive into the status of the ARPA funds themselves.

In the City Council Workshop on Monday, the question was put directly to the City Manager on the state of the funds. The City Manager spoke of a “fabulous” rate at the time funds were deposited of 1.75%, and then went on to say rates had “flipped” and we are now receiving a lower amount. The City Manager said that a separate bank account had been opened for ARPA funds and that all associated interest earned is also in that account.

I have the following questions:
1. What type of account(s) are Bangor’s Federal SLFRF (ARPA) award placed in? (i.e. Municipal savings, certificates of deposit, etc.)

2. What is the exact amount of interest that has been earned to date?

3. Was the June 30, 2021 year-end reconciliation performed as promised in the City’s response to RKO’s March 2022 letter? Source: REPORT ON COMPLIANCE AND ON INTERNAL CONTROL OVER FINANCIAL (bangormaine.gov)

4. Will there be a year-end reconciliation performed for fiscal year ending June 30, 2022? 
5. Will a paragraph be included to explain the varying interest rates in the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for Fiscal Year June 30, 2022, just as the city has explained interest on other funds in the past? 

The City Manager is absolutely correct that there are no restrictions placed on interest earned from ARPA funds. The City does not have to remit it nor report it to the Treasury. Interest spending is only bound by existing state and local laws like any other revenue. Source, Question 8.11: SLFRF Self-Service Resources | U.S. Department of the Treasury

I am especially interested in knowing the amount of interest earned to date. Speculations range from $300,000 to $700,000. That’s a significant amount of money that could be spent right now to put lives back on track here in Bangor. No federal restrictions make that money easier to invest where it is needed most without the burden of intensive federal reporting.

The people of Bangor deserve to know EXACTLY what is happening with the ARPA money. The Federal government threw us a hefty lifeline. Citizens have been begging for real action by City Council on identifying projects to solve our most immediate problems that were exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. When viewed through the lens of “interest earned has no restrictions” suddenly these past 18+ months of little action (beyond a single meeting spitballing ideas on a whiteboard and wholesale discounting the opinions of citizens who called, wrote, and showed up) makes more sense.  I do not want to believe that the end-game of the heel dragging has been “we don’t want to let go of this interest”, but that’s starting to feel like the prognosis. The only remedy is transparency. Lots and lots of transparency. 

I am looking forward to hearing the answers to these questions, as well as ones I have stated in previous emails about Bangor’s ARPA funds.

Sincerely,

Michael Beck