The $59.4 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds that Greensboro received has been burning a hole in the City Council’s pocket ever since it received the first check for $29.7 million in May of 2021.

It received a second check for $29.7 million in May 2022.

The federal deadline for allocating the entire $59.4 million in ARP funds was set for December 2026, but the city actually allocated all the funds on August 16 so that deadline is no longer in play.  However, the City Council has decided to spend the money as if the deadline still existed and for some reason has decided to break one of the basic tenants of government funding.

Budget directors often caution elected officials not to use one time money to fund reoccurring expenses. The ARP funds are definitely one-time money and may be once-in-a-lifetime money.  Certainly, at no time in the past half a century, has the federal government handed Greensboro $59.4 million with few restrictions.

When the money was first allocated to Greensboro, the City Council agreed that it should be used for a transformative project and not spent in dribs and drabs on everyday expenses.  However, the idea of a transformational project went out the window and evidently it was easier to gain majority approval for dribs and drabs, like carpets, roofs and parking lots.

The City Council has also agreed to spend $990,000 for city employee health insurance.  This allocation will allow the city to not raise city employee health insurance rates by 3 percent to 6 percent.

At the City Council work session on Dec. 20, Councilmembers Hugh Holston and Marikay Abuzuaiter questioned spending this one-time money on a recurring expense.

Abuzauiter said, “We don’t have anything to sustain the insurance fund.”

Holston added, “So we don’t have a buffer for next year.”

Assistant City Manager Larry Davis said, “It will be challenging to have multiple years without an increase.”

Davis noted that the city was self-insured and that the city paid about 75 percent of the cost of health insurance with the employees paying about 24 percent or 25 percent.

The $990,000 in a normal year would be paid by the employees, but by using ARP funds to fill the gap, the city will be able to keep employee health insurance costs flat and the city is picking up a higher than normal percentage of health insurance costs.