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Fischer Outlines First Use Of New Federal COVID Funds

Kyeland Jackson

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced plans Thursday to use $39.8 million dollars of federal relief funds to address some lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If Metro Council approves the proposal, it would be the first time the city dips into its American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. Fischer wants to use $20 million, or around half of the total allocation, to continue Louisville’s vaccination outreach and eviction diversion programs. Smaller sums would be set aside for economic recovery, including $5.6 million for Louisville Tourism.

Fischer said the economic stimulus would focus on the city’s downtown urban core.

“We still have far too many small businesses struggling, and far too many residents underemployed or underemployed,” he said.

The proposal focuses  on what Fischer said are “immediate and urgent challenges” caused by COVID-19. Other funding items include:

  • $5 million for utility assistance
  • $1.5 million for childcare and safety supplies
  • $1.6 million for suicide prevention and substance abuse treatment
  • $250,000 for emergency food distribution
  • $3,450,000 for an enhanced ambassador and security program for downtown
  • $500,000 for downtown events

City officials stressed that the proposal makes up only a small part — about 10% — of the nearly $390 million Louisville expects to get from the ARP over the next two years. Louisville must spend all of that money by the end of 2024.
Metro Council Budget Chair Bill Hollander (D-9) told WFPL News he expects there to be a transparent process for deciding what to do with the majority of ARP funding, one that includes public input. 

“If someone has said that they have a project that they think qualifies for ARP funds and it is not in this package, that does not mean that they will not be funded in the future,” Hollander said. “It doesn’t mean that we won’t be doing some of the very big, impactful things that people are focused on like housing, and particularly housing our houseless population.” 

The city launched a website Thursday where residents can provide their ideas for spending the bulk of the ARP funding. 

In addition to the ARP funding plan, Fischer also announced that the city’s tax revenue this year has fared better than expected. 

Revenue projections for the fiscal year 2021 budget, which ends June 30, is being adjusted up by 1.8% or roughly $11.5 million. Projections for the 2022 proposed budget will also increase by about $6 million. That means the city now has $17.5 million more for the next fiscal year’s budget than what Fischer anticipated in April.

Fischer proposed putting that windfall toward salaries and staffing in Louisville’s public safety departments. Around $5 million of the unanticipated revenue would support public works projects that have state or federal matching grants, such as the widening of River Road.

Metro Council will need to approve the mayor’s package of proposed ARP spending. A group of council members including President David James (D-6) and budget committee leaders are sponsoring an ordinance to facilitate Fischer’s proposed allocations. That process is separate from the ongoing 2022 budget talks, which will wrap up this month. 

The Budget Committee will consider the ordinance during a special meeting on June 14.

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