Here’s how the city will spend $60 million in pandemic relief

Here’s how the city will spend $60 million in pandemic relief
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Charlotte City Council voted to allocate $60 million in federal pandemic relief funds to areas that have been affected by COVID-19. But there’s little detail so far on how the money will be spent.

What’s happening: At the council retreat on Tuesday, members voted 8-1 to approve spending the majority of the $71 million the city received in May from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Biden-era stimulus package.

The money is split among three categories: housing, workforce development/employment and community vitality.

  • $17 million will be directed to housing, specifically anti-displacement strategies.
  • $16 million of the funds will go toward workforce development and employment, including small business innovation, hiring grants and hotel relief.
  • Another $27 million will be spent on “community vitality,” which includes $10 million for digital inclusion, $5 million in support for grassroots nonprofits and $5 million for public safety. It also invests in arts and culture and food insecurity.

Why it matters: The infusion of cash from the federal government is enough for cities and states to make a substantial dent in solving the economic and social problems exacerbated by the pandemic.

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Between the lines: Of the $71 million the city of Charlotte received in May, $11 million was directed to city operations. The city will receive another $71 million in May 2022.

  • That brings the total amount to $142 million. Mecklenburg County will also bring in $215 million, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was allocated $347 million.

What they’re saying: There isn’t much additional detail beyond the broad categories that were presented, but city leaders say that plans will be fleshed out now that an outline has been approved.

  • “This is giving the nod to, hey, these priorities align with what we as a council want to do,” city council member Braxton Winston tells me. “Now staff has to kind of fill some of those thing in for us.”

The other side: Before the decision, council debated whether they’ve been provided enough information, and where to direct investments.

Republican council member Tariq Bokhari, who was the lone no vote, argued that more should be provided to small businesses. And he’s concerned that city council won’t have any input on how the money is spent.

  • “Right now we’re just giving people blank checks,” he tells me, speaking of city staff.

The big picture: It’s been five months since the city obtained the money, and city leaders have to find a balance between making deliberate decisions and quickly distributing aid to those who need it now.

  • “As a council member, I want to get this money out into the community,” mayor pro tem Julie Eiselt said in the meeting.

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