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New London residents are upset over a pandemic relief money decision during an emergency meeting

Courtesy of Pixabay

The City Council of New London, Connecticut, voted last week to disperse more than $13 million in federal pandemic relief funds during an emergency meeting. Now, some residents say they feel unheard and the decision was made in haste — without their input.

The council approved a broad outline of potential American Rescue Plan Act funding allocations based on requests submitted to the city. Kat Goulart, the chair of the Republican Town Committee, said that it is a mistake for the council to try and disperse this money before the November 2 general election.

“To appropriate $13 million dollars of it just days before an election so that one group, one party, can have control on how that $13 million dollars is spent, I think is disgraceful,” said Goulart of the majority-Democratic city council. “We need to take a step back and undo that mistake.”

Goulart said the council’s repeated refusal to answer direct questions on how the funds will be distributed has been part of a years-long pattern.

Eddie Long, a city council candidate for the Green Party, agreed with Goulart’s remarks. He said the council should never have voted on a spending plan when there is an election on Tuesday.

“Why are we deciding in haste what to do with $13 million dollars before some of these folks will leave office?” Long asked. “It’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.”

“I expect some mistakes from our leaders, but what I expect is transparency and honesty,” said Kris Wraight, a longtime New London resident running for City Council as part of the Green party. “I expect our leaders to clarify and engage with New Londoners and that’s not what’s happening.”

Maya Sheppard, a member of the youth activist group Hearing Youth Voices, remains frustrated with the proposed plans. She said the rushed decision has stopped groups from advocating for more funding in other areas.

“It’s unacceptable,” Sheppard said, “it leaves people unable to give input.”

Residents organized a gathering outside city hall scheduled for Monday night to urge council members to rethink their decision. Organizers asked members of the community to demand a transparent process around the way federal funds will be spent.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.