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City of Cambridge Response to COVID-19 Pandemic Continued through FY22

July 14, 2022
$35+ Million
City and community direct financial support to individuals, families, and non-profits through January 2022
$88 Million
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funding portion allotted to Cambridge to support COVID-19 response in FY23
$22 Million
Portion of ARPA funds allocated towards direct cash assistance to combat the adverse effects of the pandemic faced by low-income families
>
$500
Monthly allocation for a duration of 18 months to Cambridge families under 200% of federal poverty level, making Cambridge the first city in the country to expand its cash assistance program to every family living in poverty
93%
Percent of Cambridge residents who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of June 1, 2022
77%
Percent of Cambridge residents who are fully vaccinated as of June 1, 2022

Since March 2020, the City and its partners have made enormous strides in the fight against COVID-19 and its subsequent variants. As of May 2022, over 93% of Cambridge residents have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 77% are fully vaccinated. The City has built the necessary public health, communications, testing, and vaccine infrastructure needed to scale operations quickly to meet any emerging need in Cambridge.

Over the past two years, the City has launched and maintained initiatives to aid Cambridge residents, businesses, and non-profits in this time of crisis. Below are some highlights of the range of work that has occurred since March 2020 and continues to be undertaken to combat COVID-19. For example, the City’s team and
its partners:

  • Established and maintained a City-funded and administered community COVID-19 PCR testing program, administering over 275,000 free COVID-19 tests through April 2022, and established a free daily appointment-based testing program at CIC Health site for those who live or work in Cambridge;
  • Developed messaging and outreach efforts to help residents access COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots;
  • Administered over 16,000 vaccines and booster shots through City-run clinics;
  • Distributed over 40,000 rapid Antigen tests to the City’s most vulnerable residents by working with non-profit and community partners;
  • Procured an additional 50,000 rapid Antigen tests and 75,000 high-quality masks for residents, frontline workers, and City staff to allow critical services to continue to function during COVID-19 case surges;
  • Activated the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund to support individuals, families, and small businesses experiencing financial hardship thanks to approximately $5 million in donations from Cambridge residents, corporations,
    and university partners;
  • Awarded grants and loans to support small businesses, including a collaboration with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) on a $1 million zero-interest loan program for small businesses funded by the CRA;
  • Created a Housing Stabilization Fund to support Cambridge households with six months of housing assistance, established a housing assistance line, and conducted outreach on the City’s eviction moratorium that protects tenants;
  • Provided Cambridge non-profits and the local arts and culture sector with grants to provide services and meet urgent needs;
  • Established a Small Business Advisory Committee to coordinate with local businesses and business associations around pandemic-related issues facing the business community;
  • Reduced fees and extended payment deadlines to provide flexibility to residents, businesses, and taxpayers experiencing financial difficulties;
  • Created and continue to operate an innovative initiative for local restaurants to supply meals for the homeless, and partnered with and funded Food for Free to create a Community Food program;
  • Funded 400 Internet Essentials accounts for qualifying Cambridge School families without Internet access
    at home;
  • Supported expanded permitting of outdoor dining opportunities and funded a patio heater reimbursement program for local food establishments; and
  • Planned, built, and opened a temporary homeless shelter and a quarantine facility, which evolved into a new Transition Wellness Center for over 50 unhoused residents.

None of these COVID-19 efforts, nor the routine critical City services that continued without interruption, would be possible without an incredibly dedicated City workforce.

Special thanks also to Cambridge Fire Department who worked in collaboration with Cambridge Public Health Department and with support from Cambridge Police Department to staff citywide COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites.

As a City, Cambridge is addressing the community’s challenges and needs and will continue to do so into the future. As of the end of January 2022, and since the start of the pandemic, over $35 million in City and community direct financial support to individuals, families, small businesses, and nonprofits has included support for:

  • Food, lodging, and shelter services;
  • Direct Housing Support Grants through the Housing Stabilization Funds;
  • Grants to Cambridge non-profits servicing Cambridge residents;
  • Small Business COVID-19 grants and loans;
  • Grants to address urgent needs in the local arts and culture sector; and
  • Additional City funds for the School Department for COVID-19 related health and safety mitigations, staff, technology, and instructional supports.

The City’s continued efforts are possible in part because of strong management and sound fiscal policies set by the City Council, and because the City is in a financial position to strategically use free cash reserves to support its COVID-19 pandemic response. It is important to note that many of the COVID-19 initiatives have been and are being initially funded by the City, despite not being in the FY21 or FY22 budgets.

Throughout the pandemic, the City has demonstrated its ability to provide high-level, fundamental services while also supporting COVID-19 related services and programs. As City departments refocus efforts on addressing COVID-19 impacts and return to pre-pandemic operations, they continue to work closely with the City’s fiscal team to monitor and control expenditures.

As a number of COVID-19 initiatives and relief programs extend into FY23, the City will continue to utilize its allotment of $88 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support these initiatives.

During the 2022 State of the City Address in April, it was announced that the City of Cambridge will be allocating close to $22 million in ARPA funding to build on the work of the Cambridge RISE pilot and combat the adverse effects of the pandemic faced by low-income families in Cambridge. This allocation will provide direct cash assistance, in the form of $500 dollars per month for approximately a year and a half, to every single eligible family under 200% of the federal poverty level in the City of Cambridge. This step makes Cambridge the first city in the country to expand its cash assistance program to every family living in poverty.

FY23 will continue to be different than pre-pandemic budgets, and some budgetary and operational elements will remain uncertain for a while longer. But the prudent stewardship of this City, the City Council’s leadership, and our workforce’s dedication have prepared us to weather this moment and support our residents and businesses. Together, we will prioritize assisting those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and rebuilding a vibrant and thriving local economy and community.

Looking to FY23, the City will continue to work closely with the Commissioner of Public Health, Chief Public Health Officer, business associations, and community, regional, and state partners to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of the community.

With the community’s continued support, Cambridge will emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever.

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