American Rescue Plan: See how much your Delaware town could get in federal COVID-19 aid

Sarah Gamard
Delaware News Journal

Delaware's three counties, cities and towns are scheduled to get an estimated $337 million in aid from the federal government thanks to the latest stimulus package from Congress.

The $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package that President Joe Biden signed into law last month, known as the American Rescue Plan, includes $1.4 billion for Delaware state and local governments to respond to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.

About $1 billion of it is expected to go to the state, based on estimates from the state treasurer's office. 

The law has some broad guidelines on what the money can be used for, such as business assistance, wastewater and premium pay for essential workers, but it has to be used mainly for COVID-19 expenses.

It's unclear exactly how Delaware and its local governments will spend the windfall.

Finance Secretary Rick Geisenberger and a spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget said the state is still waiting from the U.S. Treasury on more guidelines.

State Treasurer Colleen Davis is overseeing the $85.6 million that will go to all 55 towns and small cities. 

Meanwhile, the federal government will send money directly to the state's two biggest cities — Wilmington and Dover — and its three counties, officials said.

Most towns get funding based on population, except Dover and Wilmington

The Delaware state government is expected to get $1 billion in federal stimulus money.

According to estimates from Davis' office, New Castle County will get the biggest slice of the aid at $108.4 million because it is the biggest county in the state. 

Delaware's smallest towns, such as Farmington, Viola and Woodside get the smallest portions at about $100,000 each.

Wilmington, Delaware's largest city, gets more than any other municipality by far: about $55 million.

The city is expected to get even more than Kent and Sussex counties, which are getting a little more than $35 million and $45 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, Dover — the state's second-largest city — can expect to get less than a fifth of what Wilmington will gets in relief funding, even though its population is a little more than half of Wilmington’s.

According to the data, Newark and Middletown can expect to get significantly more than Dover, pulling in $17.1 million and $11.7 million, respectively, even though they are smaller.

About 38,400 people live in Dover versus Newark's 33,400 and Middletown's 24,000.

Wilmington and Dover get their money based on a funding formula under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development and Block Program. It determines the amount based on the city's population, growth, poverty levels, housing overcrowding and housing age.

The program is meant to help improve urban housing and create more job opportunities for low- and moderate-income people.

"Because poverty and housing factors for Wilmington are much more significant than in Dover, their allocation is much higher even though the population difference is not that significant," wrote Dave Hugg, planning and inspections director for Dover, in an email about the funds.

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Dover asks for more funding from federal government

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen is seeking more aid from the federal stimulus package.

Still, the formula is not sitting well in Dover.

In a March 26 letter, Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and City Council President William Hare asked Delaware's congressional delegation to exclude Dover from the HUD funding program because of the disproportionately low funding it is estimated to give the city.

"The use of the CDBG formula adversely impacts on the funding Dover should receive if the strict population-based approach were used," the letter reads.

The letter has yet to get a response from the delegation, Hugg said.

In a statement Thursday, a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Carper said the delegation is aware of the issues that Dover officials raised in the letter.

"We are inquiring with the U.S. Department of Treasury on an equitable funding allocation to make sure all of our cities and towns get their fair share of funds," the spokesperson wrote.

The state treasurer's office said that the U.S. Treasury may change Dover's portion when finalizing how much money each local government gets.

The estimates from the treasurer's office are projections because the federal government has to make the final call based on each town's population, according to a spokesman for the state treasurer's office.

The federal government has to release half of the funds to Delaware by the second week of May — 60 days after the legislation was signed — and then release the other half no sooner than one year later.

The local governments will be able to use the money to cover expenses through the year 2024.

The local governments have to give the state treasurer their budget information to get the funding. They can't get more than 75% of their most recent budget as of January, according to the relief law.

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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or sgamard@delawareonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.