Flint, MI– The city of Flint is getting closer to developing a plan for how to spend almost $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding.
In March of this year, the city learned that it would be receiving hundreds of millions of 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.
Flint will receive $94.7 million, half of which has already been deposited into a city account. The final rules for how to spend the money have not been announced, but there are interim guidelines. Using those guidelines, as well as input from residents, the city has published a draft which includes areas the funds should be spent.
The draft outlines five spending categories, with three subcategories under each:
- Economic Development and Blight Elimination
- Demo blighted structures
- Housing/Partnering with developers
- Support immediate economic stabilization for small business
- Safety and Crime Prevention
- Mini police stations
- Respond to pandemic-related gun violence
- Premium pay
- Identify and remediate lead hazards in eligible homes
- Supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness
- Housing vouchers and assistance to neighborhoods
- Lead service line program
- Improve access to clean drinking water
- Increase capacity at water and sewer treatment facilities
- Public Health
- Increase community health navigation
- Capital investments in community centers to meet pandemic operational needs
- Access to services and programs to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19
No specifics were provided in the draft regarding how much money would go into each, or what exactly each subcategory consists of.
During a special city council meeting to discuss the funds on Oct. 18, Council President Kate Fields asked questions about the differences between subcategories, and what was meant by each item. City Administrator Clyde Edwards said the draft consisted of “broad strokes,” and that more work needed to be done to make the plan more specific.
Part of that work includes community input, but part of it includes getting expert advice, as well.
Chief Financial Officer Robert Widigan told the council that the city is in the process of hiring a compliance firm to help them identify how they can spend the money, and ensure they are following the rules. If the city incorrectly spends the money, it may have to pay it back to the U.S. Treasury, he said.
The federal funds allow for 5% to be used for “indirect costs.” Widigan said because of this, the federal funds will pay for any compliance firm that gets hired.
At the meeting, members of the council voiced their own ideas for how the money should be spent. Many said that demolishing burnt-out and blighted structures should be a top priority.
Widigan told the council that the funds could be used for blight elimination, and the demolition of blighted structures, as those items fall under the categories of crime, public safety, and public health.
Some council members asked if the funds could be used to give homeowners credits on their water bills. Widigan said that per the interim guidelines, the funds can be used for “utility assistance.”
Councilman Herbert Winfrey said he’d like to start developing a plan of action with the council, but continue discussions before making any decisions.
“We’ve got to follow a plan for best practices … we know the areas or the topics that we can spend these dollars for, and I think it would be good for us to make a list, and begin to put some time frames to it,” Winfrey said. “Put it in the form of a resolution if that’s how we’re going to do it, and then move forward in getting it done. But I hope we don’t politicize this thing.”
But other members of the council wanted to make decisions about allocating funds at the meeting.
“We ain’t even started yesterday … that was back in May or June, during the budget. Now here we is in October still fumbling around,” said Councilman Eric Mays.
Mays made a motion to “do all things necessary” to pay 528 city employees premium pay, or $5,000 each, which would come to a total of $2.6 million.
He called it an “example of how to start.”
“I’m starting within, with city workers because ain’t nobody else saying or doing nothing, and that’s an easy category,” Mays said.
Fields said she would not be supporting the motion.
“Not because I don’t want to see essential workers getting premium pay, but because we have just been presented with a barely fleshed out draft spending plan by the administration … I mean this is so premature, I think it’s irresponsible,” Fields said.
Widigan said premium pay can only be given to essential workers who put their physical well-being at risk.
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she thought the council may not be in compliance with the rules if they approved Mays’s motion before being sure the city employees fit the requirements for premium pay.
“What if there are other things that we can do with the monies that are in compliance, that better fit? Now I want to give bonus pay … but I’m absolutely not going to support it at this moment because I want a full plan,” Worthing said.
The motion received four yes votes and three no votes, so it was not approved. Councilwoman Monica Galloway, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, Councilman Maurice Davis, and Mays voted yes. Councilman Allan Griggs, Councilman Santino Guerra, and Fields voted no. Worthing said she had been muted during the roll call, and Winfrey had left the meeting.
After this motion failed, Davis made another.
“It’s time to help folks without all this doggone politicking,” he said.
Davis moved to allocate and divide evenly $10 million of the funding to all of the residents of the city.
Some council members pointed out that this would only amount to about $100 per resident, but Davis said that can be a lot of money to people in need.
“I know somebody’s got to understand how poor folks feel … anything is better than nothing,” Davis said.
Fields said she believed his heart was in the right place.
“I don’t think there’s any ill intent here, but once again, I think this is fiscally irresponsible,” she said. “For example, based on that motion, the wealthiest people in town would be getting $125 which is ridiculous to me.”
The council did not get to vote on his motion, as too many members dropped off the call.
The administration is still taking in input from residents on how the funds should be sent. Suggestions and ideas can be sent to the administration in multiple ways:
- Vote in this poll: surveymonkey.com/r/FlintFundingPriorities
- Write comments and drop them off at Flint City Hall in the red drop box outside
- Call (810) 237-2000. Phone calls will not be answered or returned, but you can leave a message and that message will be transcribed and included in reports with other submitted comments.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mail comments to:
City of Flint Budget Input
1101 S. Saginaw St. Room 203
Flint, Michigan 48502
I’m a resident of Flint, MI. I feel like the people that hold office inside of the city hall. Where the Mayor is should take the stimulus money. And pay everybody water bills, because we has the highest water bills in the Nation. And give us a clean slate and lower our water bills after they our bills up. The money isn’t for them to put in their pockets. To give themselves $5,000.00 and give the people of Flint, MI $100.00. That type of money $100 can’t do anything for us. High as food, water, toliet paper, gasoline at the gas stations is what do they think that we are some dumb ass people. Well I’m here to let them know that the resident of can’t do anything with $100. And they get to keep $5,000 to themselves in the City Hall The Department of Water. If they want to give the people some give us that $5,000 a piece and they take $100 for themselves. Like Eric Mays and Mr Davis and the rest of them that voted to give themselves $5,000. And all of the rest of the people in Flint, MI a $100 a piece. Or do like California give there low income people money and more than $100.
We have some crazy people that work in the City Hall. Want the money to go in there hands. Don’t they get a pay check that they work for. And we put this crazy people in office and this is how they repay us. We need to fire all of them money ass hungry people. Just pay our water bills and divide the rest of the money give it to us poor people. Or to the Senior Citizens and Veterans and people that don’t have children. Because President Biden got the people with children token care of. Or give some money to families with one child. Please pay up the water bills because it isn’t our fault that mayor Walling and that black man from under Snyder take over Flint. He is the reason why our water bills are so high because of him Early. Don’t pay the water bills for the people that had big apartment buildings fine them. Because they owe millions of dollars. Please”DO NOT” mess with the “PEOPLE MONEY”. That money belongs to use.
I think myself ,that the money should go to demolition ,to tear down abandoned houses. Burned houses .and maybe cleaning and cutting brush and trees thats overgrown in flint. And these hard working city workers working during the pandemic. Some have died in the process .they deserve some type of compensation taking care of the city while some people were safe in there homes.they were out putting there family in harms danger .people keep that in mind.
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