Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council’s budget chairs announced Monday afternoon the city plans to spend the bulk of federal COVID-19 funding on affordable housing, public safety, small business support and healthy neighborhoods.
The announcement follows months of public engagement through surveys and public meetings. Throughout the process, officials say they heard overwhelming support for affordable housing and resources for people experiencing homelessness. Louisville has so far only spent about $30 million of the funding it received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The priority areas will guide spending for the remaining funds, estimated at $340 million.
Mayor Greg Fischer said city officials will not be looking to spend the money on smaller programs.
“The expectation is that we will propose, and Metro Council will approve, projects in each of the focus areas that promote equity and make a sustainable, significant community impact, rather than smaller projects that, while valuable, don’t have the potential to make lasting change in the community,” he said.
In addition to the four priority spending categories, Fischer said the city will also set aside money for the ongoing public health response to COVID-19 and bonuses for frontline city employees.
Metro Council will need to approve the spending priorities, which are outlined in the resolution filed Monday by Council Members Bill Hollander (D-9), Kevin Kramer (R-11), Jecorey Arthur (D-4) and Council President David James (D-6). A vote is expected on August 26.
Hollander, who chairs the Budget Committee, said the city will issue a request for project proposals from community groups once the priority areas are approved.
“We need the partners to come together with good ideas and we need them to work together,” Hollander said. “These are going to be people who know how to build and run affordable housing, it’s going to be people who know how to provide mental health services, people who know how to provide addiction services.”
It’s unclear what specific projects will be funded and how much money will go to each priority category.
Louisville officials also outlined a list of unanswered questions on Monday that they hope will be addressed as the process moves forward, including whether the COVID relief funding can be used for infrastructure and how Jefferson County Public Schools will spend its own pot of federal money. JCPS is expected to get roughly $578 million from the American Rescue Plan Act over three years.
Council Member Kramer, vice-chair of the Budget Committee, said there are also more grants coming down from the federal government that will impact how Louisville Metro ultimately decides to spend the ARPA money.
“We want to make sure that, as much as possible, we capture those grants before we start digging into these ARPA funds,” he said.
Kramer added there may be some “not so sexy” budget items, like public parks, that will need to be funded with the federal dollars, even if they weren’t a top priority during public feedback.