The City of Flagstaff is set to receive $13,252,816 in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for State and Local Recovery Funds.
The State and Local Recovery Funds is a subset of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and sets aside $350 million intended to support state and local governments.
The Flagstaff City Council on Tuesday was asked to provide feedback on a proposal from the city’s budget team outlining how the funding might be used. City management analyst Rick Tadder walked city council through 15 programs and activities that are encompassed in the proposal.
Of the $13.25 million that the city was allocated, the budget team plans to reserve $4.5 million for potential revenue the city lost as a result of the pandemic. City staff say they are currently waiting on a determination as to whether any of the funds can be put toward recovering lost revenue, but have reserved the money for now.
That leaves the city with $8,752,816 to allocate to programs. The draft proposal outlines how the city could choose to divide the remaining money across the various programs.
Among the items included in the draft proposal were public health initiatives, including a $500,000 vaccine incentive program, $200,000 toward supporting safety in congregate settings such as shelters or schools, $450,00 toward housing assistance and $2.4 million in support for alternate care services.
Councilmembers largely supported lowering the funding allocated toward a vaccine incentive program. Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy suggested placing the allocation at $100,000 and looking to outside partnerships to assist with procuring incentives.
“I agree that the vaccination incentive program should be reduced dramatically. $100,00 would probably be adequate although I might even go lower than that,” Councilmember Jim McCarthy said.
Councilmember Austin Aslan said he would like to see more funding put toward “a social safety net” of alternate care, food-related nonprofit support and housing assistance. He said that money could be pulled from other areas, such as tourism recovery, that were still important but not as dire.
The draft proposal’s funding for economic recovery includes $500,000 to support small businesses and $350,000 to support tourism-related businesses. Outside of business support, $725,000 was allocated to aid nonprofits and other agencies impacted by the pandemic.
A majority of the council strongly supported allocating ARPA funds to address housing concerns.
“I’d prefer not to be too prescriptive, because we have lots of people that are working on [housing], but I say we budget $1.5 million and have half a million going toward our unsheltered and then another million to be used for however the housing staff and commission feel it is best utilized,” Vice Mayor Becky Daggett said.
City officials discussed another $1 million with the council that is budgeted to support premium pay for those working in jobs directly tied to public health and safety. At the meeting, City Manager Greg Cliffton outlined recent retention struggles the city’s 911 dispatch unit is facing.
“In addition, we seem to have about a 30 percent vacancy in our police department and we seem to be losing more than we are gaining,” Clifton said. “ All of these measures are being looked upon as temporary until we get our staffing levels somewhat back to where they can operate efficiently.”
Infrastructure improvements are something the city might look to use ARPA funding for as well. The budget outlines $1.5 million for improvements to the city’s water and wastewater systems, in addition to bolstering cyber security and bringing fiber internet projects.
After city council’s input Tuesday, the draft proposal for the ARPA funding is likely to return to the council with many changes and additional programs before it is approved.
Councilmembers suggested the addition of additional programs, such as food support.
“We’ll continue the conversation with the council and we will continue to refine and change the allocations as we go further into this next year,” Tadder said.