The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, October 16, 2021 1:00 am

City Council gets update on rescue money

No plans yet to spend $50.8 million

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne City Council members got their first peek into the next steps for spending the more than $50 million the city received as part of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The last time the $50.8 million in funding from the federal government was brought up at the council was in July when Crowe LLP was hired as the city's consultant firm. The city received half the funds this year and will receive the balance in May.

The federal government has been specific in how the funds can be used. The four categories are to respond to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, provide hazard pay for eligible workers, replace revenue affected by the pandemic, and make needed investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

The City Council passed an ordinance this year that requires at least 5% of the funds be used for hazard pay and at least 20% be used in each of the three other categories, but that's as far as the plan currently goes, City Controller Garry Morr said during the council's budget hearing Tuesday.

Consultants met with City Council members this week to get their thoughts on how the funds should be used, and they will do the same with city department heads next week.

“There is no plan yet,” Morr said. “That's why they are talking to you all.”

Determining how to spend lost revenue and premium pay have been two challenging categories for Morr's office to sift through, he said. He noted that each individual employee has to be examined when determining premium pay.

But as of now, Morr said he doesn't know the time frame for the council seeing recommendations on the specific categories.

“I think it will be yet this year, but it is way more difficult than any of us I think anticipated to identify those because the federal government has very, very strict rules about who falls into that category,” he said.

Beyond the council's initial plan for the funds, appropriations over $100,000 will have to be approved by the council, even if it's in the form of a grant.

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, said he wants the city to collaborate with the county since the county received $73 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“Based on this one-time dollars being available to impact the entire county as well as the city, we've got to take the leadership and to encourage that there be some type of collaboration in order to come to that end point vision for how the citizens can best be served,” he said.

Morr estimated that about 80% of Allen County residents live in Fort Wayne.

“I'm not sure that same view is shared by our friends from the county, but I sure hope we can work collaboratively,” Morr said.

dfilchak@jg.net


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