Portland city councilors will vote Monday on plans for spending most of the city’s remaining federal pandemic relief funds, including $5 million for the city’s housing trust fund and $2.4 million for employee retention bonuses.

The $12.85 million fund would also be split between several other projects, with $1 million set aside for a MaineHealth addiction medicine program, $750,000 for a mental health recovery residence operated by Spurwink and $500,000 for healthcare for the homeless, according to recommendations from city staff and the council’s Finance Committee.

The latest round of spending is part of the more than $46 million Portland received in American Rescue Plan Act funding, most of which has already been allocated. The $12.85 million the council will look at Monday includes $1.65 million that was spent last year for a vaccination and employee incentive program, as well as a final $11.2 million that is up for new spending.

“Those who were selected for funding were selected because their projects aligned with the goals of the City Council and the challenges we’re facing currently in our social services arena, as well as the consequences of a housing shortage throughout Portland,” said finance committee Chair Mark Dion at a meeting last month where the committee voted 3-0 in favor of the proposed spending plan.

The largest portion, $5 million, would go into the Jill C. Duson Housing Trust Fund, which is a municipal fund the city can use to help finance affordable housing developments.

Finance Director Brendan O’Connell told the committee that this proposal could pay for one of the public’s top priorities – housing – while also putting developments through a more thorough vetting process.


“In many instances, there are a lot of questions about those housing projects,” O’Connell said. “Are there other funding sources in place? Has there been underwriting done on those projects? Is the zoning and permitting in place? Those questions, the ARPA process wasn’t designed to answer, but the housing trust fund process is.”

The council is already looking at using money from the housing trust fund for a proposal from Avesta Housing to buy a 48-unit complex in East Deering, Winchester Woods, that would become affordable housing and could help house asylum seekers.

The council held a workshop on that proposal last week, and Mayor Kate Snyder said Friday that they are still waiting for more information before making a decision on whether to fund it.

She said the trust fund proposal reflects the fact housing is a priority for the city, region and state. “We want to make municipal investments in housing where we can,” Snyder said. “The city isn’t a developer, but we can help developers move a project down the field.”

In addition, Snyder said the funding could help replenish the housing trust fund should the council decide to move ahead with the Winchester Woods project. Avesta requested $5 million, and city staff have said they could have as much as $4.2 million available if the city were to use all the money available in the trust fund plus $1 million from ARPA funds previously allocated for housing.

Snyder said she is pleased with the latest ARPA proposals, though deciding which applications to fund wasn’t easy. “Every application that came in was worthy,” Snyder said. “If we could invest $20 million we could have used it really well, but we were limited to $11 million, so unfortunately choices had to be made.”


Some councilors want to spend less on the housing trust fund and more on other projects. Proposed amendments include one from Councilor Andrew Zarro that calls for $200,000 to be diverted from the housing trust fund to Electrify Everything, a city program that incentivizes sustainable energy.

Zarro’s proposal would give low and moderate-income residents access to city money to match incentives from Efficiency Maine for weatherization, heat pumps and electric vehicles.

“For Portlanders who are struggling with weatherization, energy efficiency and utility costs, this would help them directly,” Zarro said. “I think it does in another way help those who are struggling with their housing needs.”

Councilors Victoria Pelletier and April Fournier want $490,000 from the housing trust fund to be redirected to a proposal from Community Dental to continue offering oral healthcare for low-income residents.

Pelletier represents District 2, where Community Dental is located, and said the need for dental care access comes at a critical time. “It’s tricky,” Pelletier said. “With ARPA of course there’s so much we have to fund and a lot of it rightfully is for housing. But I’m hopeful that even if we could do a partial funding, that it would go a long way.”

Monday’s proposal also includes $2.4 million for city workforce retention bonuses. A proposal from the city says the one-time staff bonuses would be allocated based on four tiers, with employees who have direct contact with the public such as police, fire departments and social services workers prioritized in the first tier.

Other proposals include the $1 million MaineHealth addiction medicine program, which would provide low-barrier outpatient services for people with substance use disorder, and $750,000 for the behavioral health services provider Spurwink to launch a mental health recovery residence, housing six to eight people in the Bayside neighborhood.

Another $500,000 is proposed for Greater Portland Health to be able to offer services at the city’s new homeless services center on Riverside Street when it opens next year.

Also on Monday’s agenda, councilors will consider approving a proposed two-day, two-stage music festival in Payson Park. The council will receive the annual report from the city’s rent board. And councilors will be asked to approve spending $80,000 from the city’s land bank fund as a match to purchase land for the creation of a new North Deering Park in the North Deering neighborhood.

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