The Indianapolis City-County Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a plan for spending the $76 million remaining in the city’s share of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds on various public health, social services, economic and government-related investments.
Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the city of Indianapolis and Marion County received $168 million from the federal government to use on pandemic-related initiatives and expenses.
To date, the City-County Council has allocated about $92 million of that funding, but has been waiting on Congress to pass additional legislation that might provide the city with more funding, allow it to use some of the already-received funding to replace revenue shortfalls or extend the time given to cities and states to spend the money.
Unless something changes, the funding must be spent by Dec. 30 or the city must return the remaining funds to the federal government. Current rules prevent the funds from replacing lost revenue.
Now, with a little over three months left before the funding expires—and while Congress continues to drag its feet on another coronavirus relief package—the city is choosing to allocate the remaining funding, Thomas Cook, the mayor’s chief of staff, told reporters Wednesday.
“We can’t wait for Congress to act any longer and can’t assume they’re going to act,” he said.
The Indianapolis City-County Council held a special meeting Wednesday night, where council members voted to approve the funding plan, but not before some expressed concerns that more funding isn’t going to mental health initiatives. The plan includes $175,000 for a mental health public awareness campaign that was championed by Councilor Michael Paul Hart, a Republican.
The largest chunk of funding—about $30 million—will go to the city of Indianapolis to reimburse COVID-19 related government operation expenses, including salaries (like overtime), purchased equipment and more.
Controller Ken Clark said most of that funding will be used to pay public safety and first responder salary expenses. The funding will go into the city-county general fund.
The funding either expands on existing COVID-19 related initiatives or will help launch a new one.
Mayor Joe Hogsett addressed the council before the vote Wednesday, seeking its support.
“In the last six months, nearly 200,000 tests have been administered in Marion County, and more than 20,000 of our neighbors have contracted COVID-19,” he said. “More than 750 of our neighbors have perished. Hundreds of businesses have been shuttered, many of them permanently. It’s easy to read these statistics and to become numb to the toll that this global pandemic has had in Indianapolis. We cannot fall victim to that impulse though.”
He said the pandemic poses as much of a threat to Indianapolis and its residents today as it did in March, and only through vigilance can the city preserve the steps toward normalcy its seen in recent weeks.
And while $168 million is a lot of money, city officials have repeatedly stressed its not enough to meet Marion County’s needs.
Hogsett took a minute to criticize Congress for not acting more quickly to pass another relief package.
“No amount of finger pointing in Washington will make rent for a family in Haughville,” he said. “No amount of cable news soundbites will put dinner on the table for two young kids in Mars Hill. No amount of tweets will help keep our small businesses afloat.”
Other expenditures included in the latest round of funding:
Public health investments
– $250,000 for personal protective equipment, or PPE, for teachers (face masks and hand sanitizer bundles);
– $175,000 for a mental health public awareness campaign;
– $58,329 to the Immigrant Welcome Center to help with public health outreach.
Social services investments
– $7.5 million to extend for a second time the rental assistance program (bringing the total fund to about $30 million);
– $7 million for foreclosure prevention and mortgage refinancing;
– $3.18 million for the non-congregate housing hotel program, which will enable it to run through the first quarter of next year;
– $5.13 million to beef up Marion County’s homeless services winter contingency program;
– $2.1 million for food bank community distribution support;
– $750,000 for Gleaners meal school distribution;
– $102,000 for step-up violence reduction student outreach;
– $65,000 for door-to-door tenant outreach and eviction prevention assistance;
– $150,000 for re-entry credit repair and financial coaching.