On Tuesday, Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla released the first phase of the Hoboken Rescue Plan, a detailed plan to allocate over $13.2 million of funding from the American Rescue Plan to facilitate the City’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hoboken Rescue Plan, as proposed, will assist the City’s vaccination and testing efforts, provide rent relief to residents, provide quality-of-life improvements, and more.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has provided challenges to all aspects of our lives in ways we never thought imaginable,” said Mayor Bhalla. “As we continue to adapt and recover, the Hoboken Rescue Plan will provide critically needed funding to protect our community and invest in our City’s infrastructure for years to come. I look forward to working with the City Council and City directors to implement these important quality-of-life initiatives in the next several months, and once again, thank Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and Congressman Sires for fighting for this funding for New Jersey.”
The plan also supports recovery efforts for small businesses, grant funding for the City’s nonprofit community, ambulance service upgrades, upgrades to the Hoboken Health Department, funding for continued COVID-19 testing, and a vaccine incentive for City Hall employees.
“Hoboken is committed to providing continued testing and vaccinations for residents and business employees, which is here to stay for as long as there is a demand,” said Leo Pellegrini, Director of Health and Human Services. “This funding will be an important part of building out our Health Department so we can continue to conduct contact tracing, identify trends, educate the public, and assist residents in getting booster shots in the months ahead.”
The plan also allocates money to infrastructure upgrades, including water main leak and pressure detection technology, expands access to the City’s art and recreation programs, provides funding for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, and funds the creation of a citywide micro-transit system. All proposed aspects of the Hoboken Rescue Plan have been provided preliminary approval by the City’s federal grant consultants at Grant Rite Management and are permitted uses as specified by the federal government.
Specifically, the Hoboken Rescue Plan will:
$250,000 to expand the City’s robust COVID-19 response, providing more masks, testing, and vaccines to members of the community.
$750,000 to create a Housing Relief Fund to support residents who the pandemic has negatively impacted. The funding will also allow the City to expand the current Tenant Advocate position, which will allow for increased services and counsel for those with landlord-tenant issues.
“While New Jersey’s eviction moratorium largely remains in place until the end of the year, this funding will help me better represent Hoboken’s tenants in need as cases are likely forthcoming in 2022,” said Hoboken’s Tenant Advocate Andrew Sobel.
Distribute nearly $2 million to small businesses who applied for the City’s Small Business Grant Program. The City received 241applications from local businesses that have faced financial hardship because of the pandemic. In 2020, with funds from the CARES Act, the City provided $1.8 million in grant funding to small businesses.
“This funding is a lifeline to the Hoboken business community who are continuing to recover from the ongoing pandemic,” said President of the Hoboken Business Alliance Greg Dell’Aquila. “While we have worked hand-in-hand with the City to help our business community get back on its feet and return to normalcy, we aren’t there yet.”
$250,000 to increase ambulance service in Hoboken, which continues to respond to pandemic-related calls.
$150,000 to upgrade broadband and Wi-Fi access in the Hoboken Housing Authority to help combat social inequities and facilitate remote learning or work for residents.
“The Hoboken Housing Authority is grateful for the inclusion of funds for expanded Wi-Fi and Internet broadband connectivity in the Hoboken Rescue Plan,” said Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Marc Recko. “In today’s world, reliable and affordable broadband is an essential part of life for low- and moderate-income families addressing educational, personal, and financial equality.”
$500,000 to invest in a new microtransit system. The City will release a request for proposals (RFP) for an on-demand micro-transit system to provide additional, alternative transportation options for residents in the coming weeks.
$300,000 to expand the City’s installation of electric vehicle charging stations citywide, supporting the City’s Climate Action Plan goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The City will add six new charging stations and increase the number of charging ports to 22 citywide. The City will be preparing to advertise an RFP in the coming weeks to build out a citywide electric vehicle charging network.
“As Hoboken continues to grow, it’s critical that the City continues to innovate and expand its mobility programs to meet the needs of the community, said Ryan Sharp, Director of Transportation and Parking. “Targeted investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and an on-demand microtransit program will position Hoboken as a regional leader in green transportation while making it much more convenient to own an electric vehicle or get around town.”
$1 million to install pressure gauges and leak sensors throughout Hoboken’s water main system to help supplement the City’s water main infrastructure upgrades.
“We’ve been working diligently with our partners at SUEZ to upgrade the City’s aging water infrastructure,” said Hoboken’s City Engineer Olga Garcia. “This additional funding will not only help us upgrade our infrastructure in the years to come but, more importantly, will allow us to prevent water main breaks before they occur.”
$6.4 million in revenue recovery for the City budget. As approved by the City Council in July, the funding will allow the City to recoup financial revenue losses incurred due to the pandemic and limit the impact on Hoboken taxpayers.
“It is important that the City continues to maintain fiscal responsibility while not reducing the services we provide to residents,” said Chair of the Finance Subcommittee Councilwoman Emily Jabbour. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated – more than ever – the need for local government support for everything from testing to vaccines to support for our vulnerable populations. The infusion of federal American Rescue Plan funds will make a significant impact on the City, being able to continue this level of support while giving residents financial relief.”
$500,000 for organizations and nonprofits which have helped address food insecurities, housing, and other critical resources to those in need during the pandemic.
“The Hoboken Food Pantry is able to continue to provide much-needed food and hygiene supplies to all residents in need thanks to the continued support of The City of Hoboken and the financial assistance from the American Rescue Plan,” said Toni Tomarazzo of the Hoboken Food Pantry. “Food insecurity continues to be a challenge, especially for our City’s senior citizens. Funding through the American Rescue Plan is a lifeline that ensures the Pantry will have the resources to continue to address the needs of our community for the foreseeable future.”
It will be interesting to see how the Hoboken City Council reacts to the next part of the Rescue Plan, which includes more than half a million dollars to be allocated to municipal employees to encourage them to get vaccinated. The City has already required municipal workers who have not been vaccinated to submit to regular testing and the requirement to wear masks when on the job. Is offering a financial incentive to city employees to get a COVID vaccine crossing a line? $600,000 in financial incentives to encourage Hoboken municipal employees to get vaccinated.
$125,000 to update the Information and Technology Department at City-owned facilities to allow for greater accessibility for residents and City staff. Additional IT investment will continue to bring Hoboken City Hall into the 21st century and ensure Hoboken’s workforce remains connected and City Hall remains in operation.
$200,000 to upgrade Hoboken’s art, culture, and recreation programs, increasing access and new diverse offerings for the City’s youth and senior citizens. The City will be offering a survey in the coming weeks to gain insight into what types of additional programming residents would like to see in the future.
$100,000 in additional upgrades to the Hoboken Health Department. Funding will allow the Hoboken Health Department to expand and move to the Multi-Service Center, increasing accessibility for residents and provide space and resources.
$100,000 for quality-of-life initiatives in Hoboken, including road repair, litter, and storm recovery, supporting existing City initiatives.
The Hoboken Rescue Plan will be presented to the Hoboken City Council during its meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 18, at 7 p.m.