Council set to consider amendments to ARPA spending plan

Tomorrow the City Council’s Finance and Housing Committee will consider a set of amendments to the “Seattle Rescue Plan” legislation that allocates $128 million of federal American Rescue Plan Act and HOPE Act funding.

In late March Mayor Durkan, Council President Gonzalez, and Council Budget Chair Mosqueda jointly announced the Seattle Rescue Plan, a carefully-negotiated spending plan for the federal funding windfall. The plan is split across two bills, for arcane reasons related to the allowed purposes for certain kinds of funding. The first bill accepts the $128 million in grants from the federal government and authorizes various portions for specific uses, including swapping in $25 million of federal funds for $25 million of “general fund” dollars that were already in the budget. The second bill then re-allocates that $25 million of freed-up general fund dollars for direct cash assistance to individuals, circumventing restrictions on the conditions under which ARPA funding may be used for direct cash assistance.

The Council will consider nine possible amendments tomorrow: seven to the first bill, and two to the second.

Of the seven proposed amendments to the main bill, three actually move money around and four modify or clarify the Council’s intent on how the original allocations should be spent.  The three that involve re-allocating money are:

  • Amendment 2, offered by Morales and Herbold: it would take the $22 million allocated for economic recovery, and further break it down into specific buckets: $7.5 million for business and non-profit grants, $2 million for investments in commercial affordability, $5.5 million for recovery grants for neighborhood organizations, and $2 million for recovery grants for downtown organizations. The remaining $3 million would be moved over to the Office of Arts and Culture to support “the creative sector.”
  • Amendment 6, offered by Morales and Mosqueda: it would cut $500,000 from the Human Services Department that was intended to supplement the funding for an existing $3.7 million RFP for community-based organizations providing culturally responsive pre-employment programs and services; it would then add $500,000 to the Office of Economic Development to double the funding for a partnership with the Port of Seattle for a BIPOC youth employment and internship program.
  • Amendment 7, offered by Mosqueda: it would eliminate $200,000 in funding for the Parks Department to support “enhanced maintenance and custodial cleaning efforts (e.g., litter collection, comfort station cleaning visits, etc.) at parks, community centers, and other facilities expected to see heavy use in the spring, summer, and early fall of 2021.” It would move the money over to the Parks Department’s “Rec ‘N The streets” program. while not codified as such, the staff description suggests there is more going on here:
    $200,000 in federal funding to support the closure of Alki and Golden Garden beaches during the summer months is eliminated. $200,000 in funding is provided to support SPR’s Rec‘N The Streets program, which provides recreational activities and mobile playgrounds at parks and neighborhoods across the City. This proposed amendment will ensure that ARPA funds are not used to contract with the Seattle Police Department or outside organizations that provide armed security services for SPR’s security needs.

The four amendments to the bill’s “intent” language read:

  • Amendment 1, offered by Mosqueda: it would clarify that the Council intends the fund to be used “to partner with community-based organizations whose staff and board composition reflect the community they serve.”
  • Amendment 3, offered by Herbold and Mosqueda: it adds the Council’s intent to provide future funding to make permanent the Keep Moving Streets at Alki Point, Green Lake, Lake Washington Boulevard, and possible Golden Gardens.
  • Amendment 4, offered by Herbold: it would express the Council’s intent to provide services for homeless people living in RVs, including possibly an RV safe lot, and storage of RVs for people who have accepted offers of housing or shelter.
  • Amendment 5, offered by Strauss: it would specify the Council’s intent to spend a total of $60 million in this and future legislation to acquire properties that support or create affordable housing (up from $40 million in the original bill).

On the second bill (allocating $25 million for direct cash assistance to individuals), there are only two amendments, both changes in intent language:

  • Amendment 1, offered by Mosqueda and mirroring the first amendment to the other bill: clarifying that the partner organizations selected by the city to distribute the funds should be “community-based organizations whose staff and board composition reflect the community they serve.”
  • Amendment 2, offered by Herbold: it would include artists and other workers in the creative industry as additional priorities for cash assistance.

Overall, these are minor tweaks to the $128 million spending plan; the only amendments that might be controversial are Amendments 2 and 7 on the main bill.

One interesting twist for tomorrow’s meeting: because Mosqueda chose to run the bills through the Finance and Housing Committee instead of the Budget Committee, only five of the nine Councilmembers will be allowed to vote — or offer amendments — tomorrow. Those five are Mosqueda, Herbold, Lewis, Gonzalez, and Strauss. Mosqueda has invited the other four, Pedersen, Sawant, Morales, and Juarez, to sit in on the meeting, and she will probably allow them to make comments during the meeting, but at this point they will have no say in which amendments are adopted. All nine, however, will have one last chance to offer and vote on amendments when the two bills come up for final passage at a future full City Council meeting.

Mosqueda is hoping to get through all nine amendments tomorrow and vote the two bills out of committee; if that fails, however, she will call a second meeting for Wednesday to finish up the work. Mosqueda expects that the full Council will give final approval at its meeting on either June 21 or June 28.

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