Flint, MI—Public safety and blight were among the top priorities brought forth by residents during a special meeting to discuss how $99.33 million in federal funds coming to Flint should be spent.
The funding is part of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion federal measure put in place this year to aid the country in recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, the city officials announced Flint would be receiving these funds and since the announcement, residents have been wondering how the funds could and would be spent.
Just an hour before the special city council meeting on May 5, Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced plans to commit $2 million of the federal funds to fighting blight.
“Unfortunately, our city has seen years and years of neglect, but this $2 million will allow for a massive increase in our cleanup efforts and help us to move our city forward in a positive direction,” Neeley said in a press release. “As we continue to make strong headway in fighting blight, we now have the ability to add more resources to the fight without losing focus on other community priorities.”
Cleaning blight in the city was one of many suggestions brought forth by the public during the special meeting. Here are other ways the public speakers proposed using the funds:
- The Flint Police department
- Further funding the detective bureau
- Increasing wages
- Funding more positions
- Demolitions of blighted, burned, and abandoned houses
- Home repairs
- Water bills and water credits for residents
- Street repairs
- Development on Flint’s north side
Congressman Dan Kildee, who attended the meeting to provide more information about the funds, said he is pushing for flexible guidelines for the funds, as opposed to strict uses. He said if the guidelines for spending the funds are made broad enough, some of the public’s suggestions could potentially be used.
While the guidelines for the funds are still being determined, here is what we know:
- Funds can be used to assist households, small businesses, nonprofits, and industries impacted by COVID-19.
- They can go to support essential workers and supplement lost revenue in the budget.
- They can be invested in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
- They cannot be used for pension and legacy costs, or to offset any reduction in tax revenue.
Kildee suggested that the city try to use the funds in a transformative way, in order to support the case for the federal government to provide more relief programs like this for local governments in the future.
“This is intended by Congress as a one time COVID-related relief program for local governments…but I think it would be a mistake for us to view this as a one time infusion, because my goal…is that we utilize these dollars in a fashion that gives us the argument that the federal government needs to continue to stay engaged, after this $99 million is expended,” Kildee said.
“This has to be the beginning, the re-affirmation for the fact that the federal government has a stake in our future and a responsibility for our future,” he said. “There’s no guarantee that that will happen, but if across the country, these dollars are not used in a way that is transformative, that make a big difference, it’s going to be more difficult for us to argue for those dollars.”
Mayor Neeley and Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer hosted a community update last week to provide information about the funds and inform the public about how they could weigh in.
Neeley welcomed residents to voice their ideas for the money using these methods:
- 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 email@example.com
- Mail comments to:
City of Flint Budget Input
1101 S. Saginaw St. Room 203
Flint, Michigan 48502