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How Richmond may spend $154 million in federal funding

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Posted at 6:45 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 13:21:21-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond City Council and Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration discussed how they plan to spend millions of dollars in funding from the American Rescue Plan on Monday.

Stoney’s Acting Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders detailed the Mayor’s plan for the $154 million the city will receive in two payments from the federal government.

“We know there is still a lot of need out there in the community,” he told council members.

City Council and the Mayor’s office agreed on several big spending projects according to the list of priorities shared during a Monday work session at City Hall.

Notably, $20 million would go towards an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide financial resources to address the affordable housing needs of individuals and families who live or work in the city.

That fund is categorized as Building Back Affordable and Healthy Homes under the Mayor’s spending plan, which includes $6.8 million to the phase 1 redevelopment of Creighton Court and $5.5 million to the phase 1 redevelopment of Highland Grove.

Under the mayor’s Building Back Healthier category, $5 million would go towards a Health Equity Fund which encompasses COVID-19, vaccine incentives for kids, mental and behavioral health and other health-related issues.

Nearly $6 million is planned to be spent on small business grant application support, facade and city beautification improvements and other support programs.

If passed by City Council, investment for property acquisition for new parks on the Southside including community center redevelopments is a combined $80 million. That figure includes $15 million to redevelop the Southside Community Center and $20 million to an 8th District Community Center.

“Communities on the Southside deserve a quality green space,” said 9th District Councilman Mike Jones.

The city’s public safety front line employees would receive a 10% bonus paid for with $5 million in funds, which equals a $3,000 bonus.

To address the city’s flooding issues, $13.5 million would be spent on flooding mitigation through the Department of Public Utilities.

Council Vice President Ellen Robertson recounted troubles traveling through the city during last week’s storms that dropped nearly three-and-a-half inches over the city in an hour.

The city said they’ve invested $350 million over the last 40 years, using mostly city dollars, on reducing combined sewer overflows by 90%. Reducing the final 10% is the most difficult and most expensive of the projects, according to a city official.

That works is expected to be completed in two phases: $33 million over the next six years to reduce an additional 1% of the remaining overflows and $850 million over the following eight years to reduce the last 9% of the overflows to meet water quality requirements.

“We have a long way to go and we want to be sure to make a significant and sizable investment with ARPA funding,” Saunders stated.

The funds enable localities and states around the country to jump-start an equitable and healthy recovery through four main avenues:

  • Responding to the negative public health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Providing premium pay to essential workers;
  • Investing in water, sewer or broadband (internet) infrastructure; and
  • Making up for revenue the city lost during the pandemic.

These are the boundaries the City of Richmond must operate within when deciding how to spend federal funds. The money can be spent through 2026.

The city plans to release additional information about how residents can get involved in the discussion on Tuesday.