Mosby Introduces Bill To Bolster Council's ARPA Spending Oversight
City Council President Nick Mosby introduced a bill Monday that would require the Scott administration to provide the council with monthly reports and quarterly briefings about American Rescue Plan spending.
“The purpose of this bill is to ensure that the council has our legislative duty as oversight,” the Democrat said. “We understand and know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the city to really eradicate and sustainably change some systematic problems that have been plaguing our city for far too long.”
The legislation also would require Department of Finance officials to provide equity assessments and annual reports on the disbursement and management of the $641 million in federal funding that the city received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, known as ARPA, to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Treasury issued the city the first half of the money earlier this year; the rest will hit in mid-2022. The funds must be committed by 2024.
Mosby’s bill was cosponsored by council members Eric Costello, Sharon Green Middleton, Danielle McCray, Mark Conway, Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer, Robert Stokes, Sr. and John T. Bullock, Odette Ramos, James Torrence and Zeke Cohen. Mosby assigned it to the Ways and Means Committee. Scott, who supports the bill, will hold an ARPA hearing with the council early next month.
Mosby has said the mayor should invest the money towards one issue, saying that he has a responsibility to ensure the money packs the greatest punch possible rather than spreading it out.
When ARPA passed in March, Mayor Brandon Scott pledged to invest the month in getting Baltimoreans back to work, building wealth in communities and neighborhoods that were historically denied opportunity and helping small businesses recover but stopped short of providing concrete details, saying he’d take time to strategically plan.
He launched the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs in July; the ten-person office is responsible for weighing funding proposals through a rubric that measures risk, cost and equity impact. The office began accepting applications for ARPA money from city agencies over the summer; on Monday, Scott announced that nonprofits may begin to apply for the funding starting Oct. 1. Proposals from both agencies and nonprofits must cost a minimum of $250,000.
He also gave a first glimpse as to what equity-based long term projects the city will fund: community-based violence reduction efforts, a recovery fund for small businesses and investments in broadband infrastructure with a focus on equity. The Democrat did not specify these plans beyond broad outlines but said that more details will be announced this month and the next.
About 20% of the city’s ARPA funds have already been committed to balancing budgets and setting up the Mayor's Office of Recovery Programs. That pool of money was included in the fiscal year 2021 budget the city council passed in June.
About $450 million is still on the table for the ambitious projects Scott promised when the funds were first announced. Individual allocations of the money will be controlled by his administration.
“We’re excited that the mayor is very supportive,” Mosby said. “We look forward to speedy hearings as well as getting into the nuts and bolts associated with the spending bill.”