It’s back to square one on how to spend American Rescue Plan Act funds. Nearly a month after seeing Guillory’s administration’s plan on how to spend more than $85 million coming to the area, the city and parish councils decided to hire a consultant.
This move comes after pushback from council members and the public and fear of having to pay the money back if misused.
The ARPA funds are primarily meant to alleviate COVID-related crises in communities, but the proposal from Guillory focused on four things: competitive investments, drainage, roads and bridges, and public safety.
It will cost $360,000 to hire the third-party, consulting agency. The rest of the $85 million dollars will be put in two separate reserves for later use. During the meeting, city council members brought up their desire to have full autonomy over their funds, which comes to about $38 million. The parish will receive about $47 million.
The public and councils expressed concern about whether they were doing the right thing.
“There’s absolutely nothing in here that addresses those issues,” said city council member Glenn Lazard.
Councilmember Lazard says in the Guillory administration’s original plans, there weren’t projects dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the audience agreed.
“So, council, I ask you to put a pause on this rushed project and listen to the people that are asking for diversity in these types of expenditures,” said Marja Broussard, State Vice President Dist. D for NAACP.
The council has until 2024 to decide how to spend the money and until 2026 to spend it.
People that spoke at the meeting today are asking that council members and the administration go out to areas with populations that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, like minorities and those experiencing homelessness.
“I want to make sure that their voices are heard tonight and that this is a priority for this council to consider as you’re moving forward with funding that was specifically supposed to be for people that were affected by COVID,” said Kim Broussard.
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