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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane City Council prepares for vote on $14 million in American Rescue Plan spending for housing, child care, arts

The Spokane City Council last week approved the nomination of Jennifer Cerecedes, a veteran of SNAP, to oversee the city's response to housing and homelessness issues.   (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
The Spokane City Council last week approved the nomination of Jennifer Cerecedes, a veteran of SNAP, to oversee the city's response to housing and homelessness issues.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane City Council could celebrate the new year by dipping into its American Rescue Plan funds for the first time.

The council is set to vote Monday on $14 million in proposed spending on support for affordable housing projects, first-time home buyers, child care centers, people who work in the arts and more.

If approved, the proposals would be the first money pulled from the $81 million the city received from the federal American Rescue Plan.

The wide-ranging proposals were initially vetted by the City Council in November. The vote on Monday is the final step in approving them. The vote on Monday will not decide who or what receives funding, but for what purposes the money will be spent. Winners of funding will be decided by a request for proposals.

The spending plan outlined in council documents indicates that addressing the city’s housing crisis is a strong priority.

The largest portion of funding – $6 million – would be dedicated to supporting affordable housing projects in the city.

The Spokane Low-Income Housing Consortium lobbied for the funding and provided the City Council with a list of projects that it claimed could be viable with the city’s support. The goal would be to have the projects completed in 2023.

The council would also set aside $2 million to support first-time homebuyers in making a down payment, provided they earn 80% or less than the area median income.

Another $1 million is set to be invested in planning to attract increased housing development and density along the city’s transportation corridors, while another $300,000 would be set aside for the creation of an eviction defense and legal education program in the city. The latter has been advocated for by the Tenants Union of Washington State, which has argued that despite new protections given to tenants under state law, many are unaware of their rights when threatened with eviction by a landlord.

The plan also calls for $1.5 million to be invested in upgrades to playground equipment and public bathrooms in city parks, particularly in low-income areas.

Child care providers are set to receive $1 million, and another $1 million will be dedicated to supporting those who work in the arts.

Arts organizations have fought for support through the American Rescue Plan, noting that the industry has yet to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

City leaders spent several months developing a process for spending American Rescue Plan funds, which several described as unprecedented.

The council has a three-member workgroup to review proposals for how to spend the money and recommend ideas it deems worthy to the full council for review during a study session. If a proposal wins the informal approval of council, it’s sent back for refinement before a final vote – like the one scheduled for Monday.

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