Flint, MI– The Flint City Council postponed two resolutions that would use American Rescue Plan Act funds to give premium pay to certain essential workers, including police and fire personnel.
During the finance committee meeting on Dec. 8, many council members said they weren’t opposed to giving premium pay to essential workers, but wanted input from the community, and a whole spending plan before approving where the money will be spent.
“I want to make it very clear that this has nothing to do with those who serve their community through policing or through the fire department. It’s just making sure that we have a plan in place,” said Flint City Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder.
In March, the city learned that it would be receiving $94.7 million dollars in COVID-19 relief as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic. Half of the funds have already been deposited into a city account, but so far there is no detailed plan for how to spend it.
At the meeting on Dec. 8, the council discussed using a portion of the ARPA funds to give essential workers premium pay– a request that came from the mayor’s office.
In the administration’s recommendation, premium pay would be given to qualifying Flint Police Department sworn officers, Flint Fire Department certified fire suppression personnel, qualifying public safety civilian support personnel, and qualifying American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.
Police and fire department employees would receive an additional $5 per hour worked between June 14, 2020, through June 12, 2021, not to exceed the maximum of $10,400. The public safety civilian support personnel would receive an additional $2.50 per hour worked between the same dates, not to exceed $5,200. The qualifying AFSCME personnel would receive an additional $3 per hour worked between those dates, not to exceed $6,240.
But this information alone wasn’t enough for the majority of the council.
Members wanted to know how many workers and how many hours this applies to, in order to get an idea of how much of the ARPA fund total would be spent on premium pay.
“I agree that the city’s first responders need to have this premium pay, but I do think that the constituents need to know the total dollar,” said Flint City Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer. “And I’m not comfortable with writing a blank check and not knowing … the total amount, and how much more we’re going to have to allocate in other spots.”
Multiple council members said they’d like to see a full, comprehensive plan that shows how all of the money would be spent before “piecemealing,” or allocating small portions of the funds here and there. They also said they’d like to have public input before coming up with that plan.
“I’ve not had the community input in my ward specifically for the ARPA dollars and I’d like to do this right,” said Flint City Councilwoman Eva Worthing. “So until we hold that, until we come up with an overall plan of what percentage of the money is going where, after the public tells us what they want to do…as long as it’s in compliance, then I will consider a motion.”
But Council President Eric Mays said he felt like people need relief sooner rather than later, and noted that the council has had these funds for months.
“I don’t think that I’m going to be waiting to allocate every dollar, and know about every cent, and that I’m not going to be guilty of piecemealing,” said Mays. “What I want to be guilty of is helping people in need in a timely manner.”
Some council members said they’d like to see these resolutions postponed to upcoming committee meetings, but the council ultimately voted 6-3 to postpone them indefinitely. Mays, Pfeiffer, and Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter voted against the postponement.