Flint, MI—Flint officials say they have spent under a quarter of the city’s $94.7 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget so far.

At a Sept. 22, 2022, community update meeting, Flint’s Chief Financial Officer Robert Widigan shared a pie chart showing that 24 percent of Flint’s ARPA dollars had been obligated or spent, while the remainder—over $72 million—has been allocated in the mayor’s ARPA plan but not approved by Flint City Council.

City of Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley originally presented his ARPA plan to Flint City Council on June 14, 2022, separately from the city’s municipal budget which had passed through council without amendment a week prior.

Since then, Flint City Council has been selective about approving ARPA-related resolutions, with some members asking for more specifics before moving resolutions forward and others requesting greater clarity on the process for community organizations to apply for their own ARPA project grants.

“What we’re working on is an application process that will be released to the public,” Widigan told Flint Beat on the latter concern, adding that funding would be specific to categories within the mayor’s proposed ARPA budget.

“So some of the categories are, like, small business loans,” Widigan said in example. “[The goal is] the small business will be able to go online, pull down the application, and fill it out.”

He said the city is working to create committees that include city officials and subject-matter experts to then review applications in different categories.

“Then, the committee will make recommendations and say, ‘Okay, we recommend that these small businesses receive a loan out of that bucket that we allocate,’” Widigan said.

“The city isn’t usually a grant provider, usually we receive grants,” Flint’s Interim Communications Director, Caitie O’Neill, added.

O’Neill said that the city of Flint is therefore trying to build an application that meets the standards of any other grant-providing organization, like the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, “so that we can make sure everything is accounted for and it’s a legit process.”

Widigan said, to that end, that the city is working with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and the Ruth Mott Foundation to build out its application.

The city did not respond to Flint Beat’s request for when the ARPA grant application would be made available to the public by press time.

Even without an application process in place, Widigan shared that, to date, the city and Flint City Council have approved the following ARPA spending: $16 million for the demolition of blighted structures; $400,000 in blight elimination equipment; $2.7 million in premium pay for essential workers; $450,000 for community centers to continue food and water distribution; $2.2 million for Miller Road’s water main replacement; and $300,000 for two senior centers.

“Hasselbring and Brennan senior centers will see nearly $1 million in investments by leveraging [that] $300,000 into $1 million thanks to C.S. Mott Foundation,” Widigan said, adding that for the remaining funds there’s planned investment in “further blight elimination, public safety, public health and economic development.”

Federal guidelines require that the city’s ARPA funding is obligated by December 31, 2024 and spent by December 31, 2026. Any ARPA money not spent by the latter date will need to be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....