17 May Richmond Continues to Consider Uses for Rescue Plan Funds
By Julia Métraux
Due to the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Congress enacted the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, worth $1.9 trillion. Richmond received over $27 million over two installments, in 2021 and 2022.
The city of Richmond has until the end of 2024 to approve the remaining $15.5 million in funds for projects, and until the end of 2026 to spend the money.
“If there are items you want to in the future, allocate funding for or have future discussions about we can do that,” said LaShonda White, the deputy city manager of community services, to the City Council at Tuesday’s meeting.
Despite the federal and statewide California COVID-19 emergencies ending, COVID-19 is still affecting people across the United States. Hundreds of people are dying of directly of COVID-19 complications every week and even more are developing long COVID. Financially, the threat of another recession is looming.
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However, city manager Shasa Curl said Richmond has been able to not been hit as hard as some other municipalities that are recipients of ARPA funding due to the city’s diverse businesses.
“We are not significantly dependent on tourism,” Curl said. “We have a diverse economy. We have a manufacturing sector, significant sales tax, and that…puts us in a solid position moving forward.”
Over $11 million of ARPA funding has already been distributed to projects across the city of Richmond. For example, $150,000 was used to upgrade the Martin Luther King Jr. Park turf field.
“That has been done, and it is being used heavily,” White said.
City staff did request that $1 million from ARPA be used for the 13th Complete Street Project, which “will include..median landscaping, irrigation, [and] street lighting.” Many council members also expressed their interest in more funding going to library projects.
Council member Doria Robinson asked White if there were limitations on what ARPA funding could be used for.
“Are there clear restrictions, things that the funds cannot be used for that are outside of timing using it before the limit?” she asked.
White responded that ARPA funds, for example, could not be put toward pension funds.
“In terms of restrictions that are outlined from the U.S. Treasury Department funds out, we cannot use it to directly or indirectly to offset tax reductions or delay, a tax or tax increase,” White said. “Funds cannot be deposited into any pension fund.”
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Earlier in the evening, Curl also noted that despite Richmond’s best efforts to be in good financial health and support projects, federal issues may cause some program funding to lessen. Due to the impending debt ceiling, Curl is concerned that the funding that Richmond or Contra Costa County receives for housing, water infrastructure, public health and more could be affected.
Robinson proposed a motion that the City Council resume the discussions about allocation at the next meeting after council members complete their strategic planning sessions. The motion passed unanimously among members of the City Council.
The next regular Richmond City Council meeting is scheduled for May 23.