In early August, the Mobile City Council had a bit of a quandry on its hands. Thanks to the Federal Government’s American Rescue Plan, the city of Mobile has $58M in COVID-19 relief funds, and a community in need. But how best to spend it? The proposal for the funds is due by the end of August, else the money is lost—a real use-it-or-lose-it.
What’s the American Rescue Plan?
The American Rescue Plan—also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package—is a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021. The bill aims to buffer the economic downfall of the COVID-19 pandemic and speed up the country’s economic recovery. A portion of the bill allocated $58M in funding to the City of Mobile, meant to be spent in areas most affected by the pandemic.
We’ve heard proposals like the Gayfer’s Building, which was slated to be worth almost $60M in funds. Last Tuesday, though, Mobile’s City Council approved, in a 5-1 vote, their proposal for the American Rescue Plan. The plan puts that $58M right back into the community by providing housing, rental assistance, and administrative grants. The fund distribution largely backs Mayor Stimpson’s “People First Plan” for fighting COVID-19 while keeping Mobile’s economy afloat.
How Mobile is spending its $58M
The “People First Plan” has a few different “buckets” or generalized categories that funds are going into. Let’s take a closer look:
Bucket 1: Premium Pay for Essential Workers (approx. $11.2M)
- One-time bonuses for the essential workers of the city. Full-time workers, of which there are around 2000, will receive $5000 and part-time workers, around 200 people, will receive $2500.
Bucket 2: Address Negatice Economic Impacts (approx. $17.3M)
- This bucket addresses a range of issues like gun violence, after-school programs, and rental assistance. The broadness of this category gives City administrators the opportunity to tackle economic issues from multiple sides.
- Around $4.6M will be invested in violence prevention, with programs and initiative like gun detection technology and community-based violence prevention.
- There is also a focus on keeping families afloat. There are allocations like $500,000 in afterschool or summer camp programs to keep children watched and fed while parents work or $2.5M in rent assistance to prevent displacement of families during a pandemic. $3.4M was pledged to down-payment assistance, with another $1M going towards utility assistance.
- Small businesses were not forgotten either! A total of $2M of these funds are for small business supports.
- For more details on what Bucket 2 covers, check out the City of Mobile’s detailed plan.
Bucket 5 (the plan jumps from 2 to 5 like we have here): Equity-Focused Services (approx $29.1M)
- This bucket is all about helping lower-income families and individuals with access to affordable housing.
- $4.1M is going towards redevelopment of Woodcock Elementary School, turning it into affordable housing. There’s another $10M devoted to affordable housing throughout the city as well.
- There’s a $14M allotment for affordable rental housing near Michigan Avenue in Mobile as well.
There is an additional $500,000 being used for direct grant distribution.
This plan is to operate as a framework for the total allocation of funds, so more details of exact expenditures will come after funds are approved by the federal government.