The American Rescue Plan was a windfall for local governments; now they’ll seek public feedback to figure out how to spend it.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County and its cities received more than $100 million in federal stimulus money from the American Rescue Plan passed under President Joe Biden. Now, local leaders are developing a plan to spend it.
Mayor Nadine Woodward, alongside Spokane County Commissioners Josh Kerns and Al French, Spokane City Council Members Candice Mumm and Michael Cathcart, and several other stakeholders, announced in a joint press conference Monday that they’ll seek extensive public input on where the funds should go.
Spokane County was given $101 million, the City of Spokane just shy of $81 million, and the City of Spokane Valley $16 million.
Local leaders were excited about the windfall, but also said they wanted to be sure the money isn’t wasted.
“It’s a one-time opportunity, so we cannot squander this,” said French.
If anything, they want to make sure these dollars are used to help make even more.
“We look at these moneys going to restore services, to make businesses and families whole again, but also those strategic investments that will pay off dividends down the road,” said Woodward.
Some priorities articulated included continuing COVID prevention efforts, refunding programs that were cut back during the pandemic, and making Spokane better-prepared for any future COVID-like emergencies.
Really the only thing not on the table is using the money for anything that would require yearly spending in the future.
“They’re not funds that we want to spend to stand up new programs or add on to programs that already exist, because that’s not sustainable,” said Woodward.
Several people also expressed their desire to make sure parts of Spokane that historically may be under-served get a good piece of the pie.
“It’s looking at where the gaps are,” said Kerns. “Where is the funding needed? Who is not receiving ARP dollars that needs ARP dollars?”
To do that, governments will form work groups, hold public meetings, and take input online as well. The idea is to get enough feedback to get a clear picture of what everyone’s priorities are so the money is well-used.
Leaders want the process to go quickly, but it still may be a few more months before any funds are actually distributed. The city council passed a resolution saying the work group’s first report to council should be on September 1.
On Monday night, council also approved hiring two new part-time staff members to help gather community input and then properly allocate the ARP funds. The vote was 6-1; Council Member Michael Cathcart voted against, citing concerns that the positions may be redundant and the duties could be performed by existing employees.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that the final budget ordinance passed by council approved hiring two part-time employees, not three full-time employees as was planned in an initial version of the ordinance.