After months of deliberation, the Spokane City Council is poised to finalize its process for distributing $81 million in American Rescue Plan funding.
The City Council is set to vote Monday on a resolution that codifies the system by which it will decide how the unprecedented windfall of federal support is distributed in Spokane.
The city also announced Thursday that it will hold a virtual forum on Tuesday to garner public feedback about how the money should be spent.
The city will have to decide not only what to spend money on, but how quickly to spend it. Some members have expressed a desire to meet an urgent need for assistance in the community, while others, including administration officials, have suggested patience and more careful consideration.
The council’s resolution does not actually allocate money. Instead, it builds the infrastructure to decide how to spend it.
“It’s going to be a rolling consideration. We meet every week and once we get this process nailed down with full council approval, then hopefully you’ll start to see proposals every week,” Council President Breean Beggs told his colleagues during a study session on Thursday.
The resolution also looks to balance the concerns of Mayor Nadine Woodward’s administration, which wants to ensure it has input, while clearly exercising the council’s authority to determine how funds are spent.
The administration has insisted that it take part in vetting proposals for spending, and Woodward has called for substantial public input before decisions are made.
Under the process outlined by the resolution, requests for funding would be made through a single contact in the City Council’s office, the American Rescue Plan Act project coordinator. The request does not have to be detailed or extensive.
“This is to make it as easy as possible for any person or group to suggest an idea, but the more detail that is provided on the proposal will make it easier for the City Council Workgroup to evaluate the proposal faster,” the resolution states.
The City Council Workgroup consists of three members – Beggs, Betsy Wilkerson and Candace Mumm – who will review it. If it meets the council’s goals and eligibility requirements of the American Rescue Plan, the work group will choose to forward it to the administration for feedback. Even if the work group does not recommend the proposal, any council member can request a review of the proposal by the full council.
After the administration’s input, the proposal will be reviewed by the full council in a study session. It can choose to reject it outright, send it back to the proposer for more detail, hold it in a queue or move it forward.
If the project receives the council’s unofficial blessing, it will return to the council’s work group for finishing touches before being sent to the full council for a final vote.
Mumm insisted the three council members would not be making final selections.
“The full council will be making the decision. There’s no behind-the-back-door decisions or pet projects or anything like that. There’s complete transparency in the process, it’s just a matter of functionality,” Mumm said.
The resolution also sets minimum percentages for spending in each of the council’s priority categories – replenishing city funds lost during the pandemic, community projects, community resiliency and direct relief.
The city received the first half of its American Rescue Plan funds this year and will receive the second half in 2022.
The community public forum will be streamed on the city’s Facebook page and on City Cable 5. Those who want to testify can sign up Open forum sign up any time until Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. by visiting https://forms.gle/q2Eo99DHh1n7zMsx8.
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