How Should Richmond Spend Its Stimulus Money?
Richmond will receive at least $20.8 million in stimulus money under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This is a one-time grant that the city must spend before the end of 2024. The money must be used for projects that address the health and economic consequences of COVID-19.
ARPA, which was signed into law by President Biden in March, will transfer more than $350 billion to state, county and city governments this year. The formula used to calculate each grant amount has not been made public, and the $20.8 million received by Richmond actually seems low compared to what other similarly-sized cities have received. The RPA Budget Action Team is seeking clarification from city, county and federal agencies about whether Richmond received its full and fair share of the money (see related article).
Though cities have a lot of leeway in how to use the ARPA stimulus money, the federal government has set some restrictions. More details will be provided to the city over time, but right now we know that the money can be used:
- To restore city services that were cut during the pandemic.
- To provide assistance to households, small business, or industries impacted by the pandemic,
- To provide premium pay to essential workers in state and local government or in the private sector (via grants to eligible employers who employ essential workers).
- To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
Since the grant was announced, the Richmond Progressive Alliance has been reaching out to Richmond residents and organizations to gather community input on how they think the city should spend the money. On May 1, about thirty people joined an online brainstorming session to share their ideas and to hear from others. The RPA also circulated an online form to collect more ideas about the stimulus money should be spent.
Many of the ideas brought forward by community members and organizations so far relate to housing and homelessness. Stimulus money could be used on programs to help renters transition to home ownership, keep vulnerable renters and homeowners in their current residences, and to provide permanent supportive housing for homeless people. The funds could launch a comprehensive program for developing new affordable housing across the city.
There were several suggestions to use part of the stimulus package to help more Richmond residents transition from fossil fuels to solar energy in their homes and vehicles.
Giving more people access to career training is another option being discussed. Making access to the internet universal and putting a computer in every home were also suggested.
Multiple people suggested investing in a youth sports complex for the various soccer, baseball, and other sport clubs in Richmond. Currently Richmond players have to travel to other nearby cities to play on their “home fields.”
Here's a form where you can share your ideas on how you think the stimulus money should be spent. RPA members who want to be more involved in the process should contact Budget Action Team member Emily Ross at [email protected].