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Council: Need special meeting to divvy up $43M from feds

With differing priorities emerging among council members, it appears ARPA spending decisions will take a while.

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Evanston City Council members agreed Monday night that they need a special meeting devoted just to deciding how to spend the $43 million in American Rescue Plan Act money the city has been awarded from the federal government.

The Council has already decided how to spend about 11% of the money, and recommendations presented by city staff Monday night would increase the allocated funds to 39% of the total available.

But while some aldermen seemed reasonably happy with the staff’s recommendations, others proposed a number of changes. With the issue only up for discussion Monday night, no vote was taken on any specific proposals.

The chart above shows the proposed and approved projects along with the amount of funds in each of six broad categories proposed by staff that remain TBD — to be determined.

Additional detail about each project can be found by clicking on a project name in the chart.

At Monday’s meeting Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said she was disappointed that more money wasn’t allocated to social service programs and suggested that affordable housing should be split off from the existing bucket that also includes city finances, sustainability and infrastructure.

Fleming also questioned the proposed funding for equipment replacement, saying “we have a parking lot full of cars that haven’t been driven because people are working from home.”

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) suggested increasing from $1 million to $1.5 million the money to be devoted to implementation of the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said she agreed with Nieuwsma about increasing the CARP funding and with Fleming about increasing social services funding. She also suggested that some priorities identified for ARPA funding might be funded from other state and federal assistance programs.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said he’s a big fan of social services, but a bigger fan of workforce development programs. “Rather than give somebody a fish, give him a pole and show him where the water is,” Braithwaite added.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said she liked what staff has proposed so far, but also wanted to wait to see whether Congress approves any additional aid programs, although she’s not optimistic additional money will be forthcoming.

Wynne suggested it might take two or three special meetings focused just on ARPA to “to really dig in on this.”

“We need a level of detail a lot like we get for the annual budget process, Wynne said, adding that the ARPA funding decisions were even more significant than the budget talks, “because we’re never going to receive this much money again.”

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