Lawmakers endorse $150 million in federal grants

·2 min read

Jun. 8—CONCORD — The plans state agencies have to spend nearly $150 million in aid from the federal American Rescue Plan cleared a House-Senate budget oversight committee Tuesday.

The grants include $50 million for water infrastructure projects, $13 million to provide more mental health treatment and $22 million to upgrade state parks.

The only item that attracted any debate on the Legislative Fiscal Committee was whether the federal relief law allows the state to spend $1.4 million to prosecute allegations of sexual abuse by staff at the former Youth Development Center in Manchester.

"The investigation and prosecution of the alleged criminal acts at the YDC is likely to be the largest single criminal investigation and prosecution in the history of the state," Attorney General John Formella wrote in this request to the Legislative Fiscal Committee.

"The work associated with these efforts presents the department with a significant, but one-time need, for new temporary staff."

State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, questioned whether this prosecution would qualify for federal support.

"Isn't there some concern there could be a clawback if we try to spend the money in this manner?" D'Allesandro asked.

State revenue loss permits using grant to prosecute abuse

Formella said the federal grant permits states to spend money to deal with the estimated loss of $130 million in revenue that occurred due to COVID-19.

"We are confident that this spending would qualify but only for this revenue loss category," Formella said.

The AG plans to hire four temporary lawyers, one paralegal and one legal assistant to help staff interview alleged victims, review documents and assist in the prosecution of the case.

Formella said his office estimates it will spend at least $2 million to prosecute this case, which should last in the courts through 2024.

Last week, a Superior Court judge dismissed without prejudice a civil lawsuit brought by more than 200 alleged victims of abuse; the judge invited these victims to bring individual complaints against the state.

Ten former workers at the Youth Development Center and one from a pre-trial facility in Concord were charged last April with either sexually assaulting or acting as accomplices to the assault of more than a dozen teenagers from 1994 to 2007.

The federal American Rescue Plan is expected to give the state roughly $1 billion, while city and county governments will get another $450 million.

klandrigan@unionleader.com