The Phoenix City Council has approved $198 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help support the city in a variety of areas. The funding was originally approved on June 8 as part of the city’s ARPA Strategic Plan, but council members wanted more information on areas such as homelessness, mental health, and vaccine incentives before moving forward.
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The City of Phoenix received its first ARPA Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF) allocation of $198 million, according to a recovery plan executive summary, on May 19 of this year. Upon direction from the City Council, only the first allocation received approval.
The next $198 million allocation (out of the two payments totaling $396 million) will be considered in May 2022.
The funding is designed to target three areas: community investment, city operations investment, and on contingency costs (like unexpected COVID-19 expenses).
The funding plan covers 47 investment areas including COVID-19 testing and vaccine efforts, homelessness, and mental health programs.
One of the areas under the new ARPA SLFRF funding plan addresses the workforce with support for employee training. According to the 2021 SLFRF Recovery Plan Performance Report, $10 million will be set aside for “Workforce Wraparound Tuition and the Apprentice Program.” This money will be pulled from a $40 million budget for arts, business, and employee assistance programs.
According to the City of Phoenix, $8.5 million of those funds will be set aside to offer free training and education for residents who were impacted by the pandemic. The funding is intended for people working in industries that were hit the hardest by COVID-19, including hospitality, food service, retail, and for families with young children.
The funding will also offer short-term and long-term training in fields such as bioscience, health care, construction, and IT. According to the city, residents who start the training will receive a monthly stipend to help with emergency expenses such as transportation and child care.
The Council also approved $1.5 million of those funds to create a community-based organization that will help expand workforce services for families with young children.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego expressed her optimism towards the funding approval and touted the benefits it brings toward expanding workforce opportunities.
“My goal is to get people into jobs – it is one of the most effective things we can do to get families back on their feet,” said Mayor Kate Gallego. “By also ensuring these families and individuals receive wrap-around services – like childcare, training, and direct assistance – we increase the chances that the gains they’re able to make now will become permanent. This is a transformative moment in the history of our community.”
The approved funding plan will address both homelessness and mental health. According to the SLFRF Recovery Plan Performance Report, $10.5 million will be set aside for a variety of needs such as mental and behavioral health, the establishment of rehabilitation centers, and to tackle homelessness.
In addition, $9 million of the ARPA funds will go to health care providers that are focused on mental health, substance abuse, and any other services that fall into this category. According to the city, this funding will go to community-based outreach teams that help connect residents to the mental health services they need.
The city also budgeted $1.5 million of those funds for those dealing with homelessness along the Salt River Project (SRP) canals and other areas throughout Phoenix. The approved funding will go to services for these individuals that will pay them for completing projects such as landscaping and other beautification projects.
Promoting vaccines and making vaccines more accessible is also an item on the funding plan. According to SLFRF documents, $5 million is being set aside to provide resources needed to ensure that people get tested. This funding could be used in other areas such as outreach to communities of color and to secure PPE as needed.
The city also approved a pilot program that will offer up to one thousand $100 gift cards and other donated items, such as food boxes and backpacks, as an incentive for residents to get fully vaccinated.