Metro Louisville

The Louisville Metro Council will consider shifting $2.7 million in one-time surplus funds toward support services for those who need financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.

The funds were originally selected to offset the city’s pension bill for the next three years. Louisville is facing a steep rise in pension costs for its employees, but council president David James (D-6) said helping residents weather the coronavirus challenge is a more immediate concern.

“We will deal with that next year,” he said. “We have people in immediate need. We have people that are literally panicked, scared and don’t know what to do, and so we need to provide some assistance.”

Economically speaking, the closing of businesses and loss of jobs could hurt those who live paycheck-to-paycheck the most, he said.

The ordinance would establish a COVID-19 Relief Fund administered by the Office of Resilience & Community Services. James said the idea is to provide capital to programs that provide food and housing assistance, which would then use it to help those affected by coronavirus. The ordinance specifically names Community Ministries, Dare to Care, and Neighborhood Place as potential providers. The Office of Resilience will have to assess each individual request on a case-by-case basis.

Relief funds could not be used for overhead, hiring or creating new programs.

James said he hopes the money will bridge the gap while local authorities wait for a federal stimulus package.

Not all council members have expressed support for the plan. After it was announced last week, Anthony Piagentini (R-19) called it a “huge mistake” because he thought there was a lack of information about what kinds of public support are most needed.

Earlier this year, Louisville CFO Daniel Frockt projected a better-than-expected budget outlook due to a non-recurring surplus. That could have helped with this year’s pension bill. But James said that’s not so certain anymore.

“The bottom line is, is that we have citizens in our community that we have got to help…and we just have to find a way to make up for that somehow,” he said.

Council members will consider the emergency ordinance at Thursday’s meeting, which will be fully virtual for the first time. James said the public will be able to watch the meeting remotely through the internet and on TV. He said a handful of council members are in the coronavirus high-risk category, which includes those over 60 or with underlying medical conditions.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.