Jul. 13—With just over $180 million coming into the city from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act, local officials are left with one major question: how to spend it.

During a Toledo City Council Finance & Debt Oversight Committee meeting Tuesday, officials discussed a basic framework for determining how to spend the money, ensuring Toledo residents are able to have their voices heard, and when an initial plan might be released.

“It makes no sense to make any decision on how to spend this money without first hearing from the public,” said David Mann, volunteer adviser to the mayor.

The total amount of funds Toledo is slated to receive is $180,948,591. Half of that money was received in May, and the other half will be received in May, 2022.

All of the money must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Mr. Mann along with several others is part of a task force created to spearhead the planning process for creating a budget for the ARPA funds. Councilman Katie Moline, chair of the finance committee, Councilman Sam Melden, and Councilman Vanice Williams are also part of that task force.

ARPA funding is designed to help cities recover from the pandemic. For the city’s recovery plan, five broad areas of focus have been highlighted — youth, parks, and recreation; safe and livable neighborhoods; job creation and economic development; green and healthy housing, and avoiding cuts to city services.

An online survey will be released to the public this week, and six citywide community meetings are planned to take place in the next six to eight weeks. Of those six meetings, five will be in person and one will be on Zoom.

Mr. Mann said the task force is aiming to have an initial recovery plan released to the public in October. But he and others emphasized that the task force is not the decision-maker.

Additionally, the funds come with guidelines, not all of which have been finalized yet, by the U.S. Department of the Treasury that detail what it can and cannot pay for. None of the funding can be used for the city’s rainy day fund, repayment of existing debt, costs related to new debt, or for any legal settlements.

“This isn’t just a blank check for the city to spend however we want,” Mr. Mann said.

The four categories that the money can be used for is municipal revenue loss, premium pay for essential workers, water/sewer/broadband infrastructure, and for costs or issues related to responding to the pandemic or its economic impact.

Final guidance is anticipated to be released by the federal Treasury Department in the fall.

Many officials during Tuesday’s meeting spoke about the necessity of not idling but of also taking their time to make sure the money is going where it needs to go.

“We have plenty of time, I think, to dole this out,” Councilman Nick Komives said.

First Published July 13, 2021, 5:39pm

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