City of Carmel using its ARPA funds for premium pay, street paving


The City of Carmel is using the first half of the $7.5 million it received through the American Rescue Plan Act to provide premium pay for city employees who worked on-site through the pandemic and to pave city streets.

The second half of the funds is expected to be received later this year, and the city expects to designate them for similar purposes.

The council recently approved plans to allocate more than $1 million in premium pay for eligible city employees and nearly $112,000 for eligible Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation employees. The premium pay, as defined through the act, is for employees who worked on-site “needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors” as determined by the governor.

In Carmel, 633 employees in all departments received premium pay, which was given to those who worked on-site between March 24, 2020, and May 2, 2021. The premium pay provided an extra $2 per hour for each hour worked on-site, but up to 2 percent of an employee’s 2021 annual base salary.

“We had a lot of city employees, who, by nature of their jobs, were exposed (to the risk of contracting COVID-19),” Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said. “We wanted to reward all our employees who work hard and do a good job for our community.”

The city is allocating more than $2.6 million for infrastructure projects, including regularly scheduled repaving of city streets. Using ARPA funds for this purpose will allow the city to boost the amount available in its general fund.

“We have tens of millions in operating balances at the end of most years,” Brainard said. “It is important to keep those balances for good bond ratings, which keeps our interest rates low when we issue bonds.”

Dan McFeely, a spokesman for the City of Carmel, said ARPA funds may be used to pay for general infrastructure based on a provision in the act that allows cities to use ARPA funds to replace revenue lost as a result of the pandemic. McFeely said because of many variables the city does not have an estimate on how much revenue it has lost because of COVID-19.

Martin Brown, program manager for the National League of Cities Center for City Solutions, said ARPA funds are “not intended primarily” for roadway projects but that they could be considered eligible as an infrastructure project. For example, he said he recently heard of a city using the funds to pay for streetlights aimed at reducing community violence.

“In general, this is one of the most flexible federal programs with direct aid to local governments, cities, towns and villages,” Brown said. “It was designed in that way intentionally to allow cities to best recover from devastating impacts from the pandemic and address any standing inequalities that exist in those communities that were further exacerbated or fomented by the pandemic.”

The city received nearly $3.4 million in COVID-19 relief funds in 2020, mostly through the CARES Act, which funded COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and pay for first responders. The city has received nearly $44,000 from FEMA this year to cover overtime pay for the Carmel Fire Dept.

CCS receives $3.4M in federal relief

Carmel Clay Schools has received more than $3.4 million in federal funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief program. The district used the $1.2 million it received in the first two rounds of funding to purchase software licenses to support virtual learning, provide before and after school remediation service and add intervention teachers.

CCS used $2.2 million received in the third phase of the program to hire teachers and instructional assistants, pay for COVID-19 contact tracing, provide an Educare workers subsidy, purchase masks and hand sanitizer, and upgrade technology.