LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Metro Council leaders and Mayor Greg Fischer want to spend the rest of Louisville’s federal coronavirus aid addressing areas ranging from affordable housing to public safety.
Guided by thousands of ideas submitted in recent weeks, city officials announced four priorities Monday for more than $340 million of unappropriated American Rescue Plan funds. While it’s too soon to know what projects will qualify for the money, Fischer said there’s now a “framework” for making those decisions.
A bipartisan council resolution says the money should be used for projects that “promote equity and make a sustainable, significant community impact” and focus less on spending that won’t make lasting change.
The city’s focus is on:
- Homelessness and affordable housing: Fischer said this approach aims to “significantly reduce” the number of homeless people in Louisville. “That includes transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, and other forms of affordable housing, particularly directed at Louisville’s lowest-income residents and those suffering from mental health and substance use disorders who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
- Workforce development: Fischer said a “big focus” will be on Black and other minority businesses and communities, as well as spending on broadband and supporting small businesses.
- Health: This area includes improving access to health care and childcare, as well as mental health and substance abuse services and suicide prevention, Fischer said. It also will also promote “healthier living environments” in communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
- Public safety: “This priority area will build on the work we are already doing to reduce violence and increase safety in every neighborhood. it will include recommended investments in violence prevention and intervention, and new policing technology and deflection and diversion programs,” Fischer said.
The city also plans to spend some funds on “premium pay” for city workers in operations such as public health, safety and sanitation, Fischer said. And Metro government will save some funds for any additional coronavirus-related emergencies.
Lastly, some eligible infrastructure projects could be funded if Congress fails to pass a federal infrastructure bill.
“The thought is: We're not sure how much of this ARP money we want to use to do those kinds of infrastructure if there's more coming,” said Kevin Kramer, the vice chair of the council’s budget committee.
The Metro Council now will take up the resolution, which it could amend. Once the council acts, Fischer said his office and budget officials will seek requests for proposals for specific projects and decide how much to spend on the chosen items before submitting the full list to the council.
Fischer said there is an “emerging list” of specific projects.
“But we're going to need to hear from the service providers in the community on how they would respond to being a recipient of the funds then to conduct those services,” he said.
Fischer estimated that it may take until the “latter part” of the year to allocate the funds, which ultimately the council controls.
Council budget chair Bill Hollander said it’s too early to say which of the areas might receive the most money, since the cost of specific projects isn’t known yet.
“But, you know, we are talking about a large amount of money here,” Hollander told reporters at Metro Hall. “And I am confident that we will be spending more in the homelessness/affordable housing area than we have ever spent in this community--because we have resources that we now have never had before.”
Besides Hollander, a Democrat, the resolution is co-sponsored by Republican Kramer and Democrats Jecorey Arthur and council President David James.
Louisville received $388 million in federal funds from legislation approved by Congress earlier this year and signed into law by President Biden. The Metro Council already has approved spending more than $30 million of that money.
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