Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday began spending the $ 309 million on stimulus money coming into the city – although the city won’t get the money until next week and the federal government hasn’t yet issued final guidelines on how it should be consumed.
Who gets the money? Restaurants, art groups, social institutions. By far the largest part will go to the city government itself to offset the tax revenue lost during the pandemic.
The stimulus amount was originally estimated at $ 291 millionBut the city is expected to receive an additional $ 18 million to split evenly between housing and healthcare.
Overall, the Cincinnati City Council unanimously approved Mayor John Cranley’s $ 134.2 million spending on Wednesday. It came after a debate among members about the speed of the spending, how much planning went into it, and whether the spending complies with federal regulations.
Councilor Greg Landsman, despite ultimately voting in favor, suggested the spending was “rushed”.
A debate ensued between city councilor Chris Seelbach and Cranley, in which city administrator Paula Boggs weighed up Muething.
Seelbach: “As far as I understand we won’t get the money until next week. How can we spend money that we don’t even have?”
Muething said it was eligible spending and the quick votes are helping the city government “take the necessary steps to implement the programs”.
Seelbach found that no other cities are spending economic stimulus money so quickly. Muething countered that some were.
Cranley: “We’re the best city in America. This shouldn’t be a cause for concern. It should be a point of pride. We told the federal government that cities have problems … that people need help … that we. We are.” could you put that money to work quickly. “
Seelbach then asked whether the expenditure complied with the federal government’s expenditure guidelines that had not yet been published.
Muething said that since the ordinances are “in the clear text of the law” for the US bailout plan, there is no need to wait for further instructions.
Alderman David Mann, chairman of the council’s budget and finance committee, said the spending had been thoughtfully and fully reviewed at its committee meeting on Monday.
The spending comes after a month of press conferences and press releases from the mayor and some councilors about their ideas for spending the money. Something suggested the Blink Festival, Repair the Black Lives Matters mural in front of the town hall and a new police headquarters of the 5th district.
A citizen poll revealed citizens wanted pickleball courts.
All of these expenses may still arise, but that will be addressed in future discussions.
This is how the money has been spent so far:
- $ 106.8 million to pay off debts incurred during the pandemic, clear the projected deficit caused by lower revenue due to the pandemic, and deposit funds into the city’s reserve accounts.
- $ 9.9 for health care
- $ 4 million for bars and restaurants.
- $ 2 million for additional “streateries” – Outdoor dining areas – in Over-the-Rhine.
- $ 7 million in grants for the arts.
- African American Chamber of Commerce grants of $ 2.5 million.
- $ 2 million for social assistance agencies.
Last month, councilors and mayor made spending proposals totaling more than $ 100 million. Few of the ideas were considered in committee and were not before the Wednesday council. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday lunchtime to discuss additional issues.
Landsman had come up with an alternative spending plan that was instant relief for small businesses and nonprofits.
Landsman wanted the city to be more deliberate and take the time to speak to the Hamilton County’s elected officials and the Cincinnati Public Schools Education Committee, which are also receiving tens of millions in aid.
He told The Enquirer that the current move felt like a “buying frenzy” rather than a deliberate process.
“People want us to act and we should, but not in this rash way,” he said.
During the meeting, Hamilton County’s Human Services Chamber Executive Director Gina Marsh also spoke, calling on the council to consider putting more money into affordable housing. Marsh’s comment came the day after Volume 3, the Affordable Housing Charter amendment, was defeated in the primaries.
“Families cannot recover from the pandemic unless they have a safe and affordable place to call home,” Marsh said. “The human services sector will play a critical role in the recovery of our community. However, these organizations can only help if they have the necessary staff and resources.”