Before discussing the proposed $120 million bond referendum at the Tuesday, May 4 hybrid work session, the City Council heard a report on the $56.6 million in American Rescue Plan money the city has been allotted.
In the topsy-turvy world of federal largess, Assistant City Manager Larry Davis said the city was expected to receive about half the $56.6 million next week, and sometime after that would receive the regulations on how the money can be spent.
So the city is expecting a check from the US Department of Treasury for over $28 million, but won’t be able to spend the money until the regulations on how the money can be spent are received.
According to the report, the second half of the money will be received no later than a year after the first half, so at some point before May 2022, and all the money has to be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.
Also, local governments are required to send periodic reports to the secretary of the treasury on how the money is being spent. How often those reports are required and the exact nature of the reports is also unknown at this time.
Davis said that in general terms eligible uses for the money would include replacing revenue that was lost due to the COVID-19 related shutdown, providing premium pay to essential workers, making investments in infrastructure including water and sewer and broadband, and providing funding to small businesses and industries that were negatively affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.
Davis said that the money could not be used to offset a tax reduction or deposited in a pension fund.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “One thing I have been talking about is looking at a two-year grant program that goes specifically to minority owned and led businesses.”
She said that the money would be in the form of grants not loans and would be administered by an impartial board appointed by the City Council and that there would be a required financial literacy program established for those receiving the funding.
Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said that in order for her to support such a program there would have to be a requirement that those receiving the funding pay their employees “something that equates to a living wage for our community.”
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said, “We have a tremendous backlog as a city of maintenance work that is way, way past due. The longer we put it off the more it is going to cost.”
The City Council only discussed two of the four items on the agenda before going into closed session.