Is Richmond not getting its fair-share of stimulus money?
The Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) Budget Action Team (BAT) has been meeting regularly to learn about the city budget process, consider new sources of revenue, and try to make sure money is spent in the best possible ways. At the March meeting, Richmond resident Jaime Perez looked over a list of cities receiving COVID-19-related stimulus money and raised a concern -- it really seems like Richmond is not getting its fair share.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021 includes $42.3 billion dollars in payments to city and county governments in California. The money is paid to cities in two installments, and all of it must be spent by the end of 2024 on projects that help offset the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The amount allocated for Richmond is $20.8 million. That sounded great to the RPA Budget Action Team, until Jaime looked at the list of what other cities are getting and saw that Berkeley is receiving 68.26 million dollars in ARPA stimulus money, despite having about the same-sized population as Richmond.
To put it more clearly, Berkeley is getting $562 per person in stimulus money, and Richmond is getting only $188 per person. What's going on here? That's what the RPA Budget Action Team is now trying to find out.
One clue is that the list of what cities are getting has put Richmond on the tab called "Other Non-Counties"; our research revealed that cities and towns with fewer than 50,000 people are listed on that tab. In actuality, Richmond has 110,000 people and should be on the "Metro Cities" tab along with Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the like. So it seems the federal government has cut a smaller stimulus check for Richmond because they think we are less than half the size we are.
Documents found by the BAT show that the feds admit there might be mistakes, saying the grant amounts "were based on incomplete Census data" from several agencies. They also stated that "as a result of incomplete data, some cities, towns and villages are missing or misclassified. The Act permits the Treasury Department to correct the estimates by supplementing federal data with state and locally- derived data."
So what local agency is going to provide that supplemental data to show the Treasury department Richmond's actual size and increase Richmond's stimulus award? The RPA Budget Action Team will keep pushing to make this right, and will release an update when we learn more.