Council briefed on potential usage of ARPA funds 

Charlottesville has now received all of the $19.6 million in funding it will receive from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act fund. Interim City Manager Michael C. Rogers gave Council an update at their meeting on July 18.

“It’s been a big help for local government in terms of recovery from the impact of the pandemic,” Rogers said.

Council has already appropriated $4.81 million of the funding and has an unallocated balance of $14.8 million. Money spent so far went to four different categories recognized by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

A slide from Rogers’ presentation shows the broad categories in which the money has been spent

Of that $14.8 million, $2.28 million was already designated for various uses during the development of the budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1. For the balance, Rogers suggested the following uses:

For economic development:

  • $750,000 to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau to make up for revenue loss from decline in meals tax revenue. Albemarle County is also being asked to make the same contribution. 
  • $300,000 for improvements to the Downtown Mall coordinated with Friends of Downtown Cville. The Mall turns 50 in 2026 and Rogers said a task force may be formed to help mark that occasion and prepare for the next fifty years
  • $100,000 for updates to wayfinding 
  • One million for a strategic investment fund for economic development
  • $500,000 for the Meadow Creek Trail to close a gap for a VDOT-funded project

Internal uses:

  • $829,000 for equipment replacement
  • $200,000 for facilities repair
  • $270,000 to augment the Human Resources including hiring a deputy director and a recruiter
  • $200,000 to fund Council’s development of a new strategic plan

Public safety:

  • $1.4 million for additional COVID spending should future surges have a greater community health impact
  • $1.1 million to help Charlottesville Fire Department with its accreditation, including hiring three more battalion chiefs for two years
  • $450,000 to help retain personnel in the Charlottesville Fire Department
  • $50,000 to help retain personnel for the Sheriff’s Office
  • $500,000 for the “Safe Routes to School Fund” 

Human service support:

  • $700,000 for the Emergency Assistance – Pathways program which would include additional rental assistance
  • $1.63 million for affordable housing and homeless services
  • $500,000 for the Community Health Initiative 
  • $1 million for the Agency Investment Fund 
  • $580,000 for Community Arts Investment
  • $176,000 for the Office of Human Rights to hire an investigator to look into claims under the Fair Housing Act 
  • $40,000 for an emergency generator for a city shelter that would be used in major catastrophes 

The combined $2.63 million for affordable housing and the agency investment fund would be disbursed through a competitive process separate from the “Vibrant Community” process the city has used since 2019 to allocate funding for nonprofits. 

The Community Health Initiative would support public health projects.

“Think of this funding as being available for a previously floated idea of the Community Care Team or something of that nature in order to do a really needed and wonderful pilot to see what would be the best support for our community,” said Deputy City Manager Ashley Marshall.

Council was to have discussed a proposal for a Community Care Team at its meeting on February 7 but the item was pulled. The topic did come up as part of a Council work session on May 2. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston noted that additional on-going positions were being proposed to be created with the one-time ARPA money.

“Hiring people with one-off type of funding is something we’re trying to be careful of,” Pinkston said. 

Rogers said those positions would be proposed to continue into the future and the city would have to find other funds to cover them. 

Councilor Michael Payne questioned the use of $750,000 to go to the CACVB. The city’s economic development director said the money would help the destination marketing organization with a current cash flow situation caused by the way it is funded. 

“There’s a two year lag in the funding cycles so the money wasn’t needed two years ago,” said Chris Engel. “It’s needed now because that cycle is playing through.”

Council got a briefing on the CACVB in June and learned that the agency received $680,000 from ARPA that flowed through the Virginia Tourism Council. (read the story)

“Given that state support I’m a little skeptical about how much is really needed for the CACVB as well as whatever specific measurable deliverables we will get for that investment,” Payne said.  

Council will be asked to take action on the appropriations at its August 1 meeting. There’s also an additional $2.52 million for which Rogers has not made any suggestions for how it should be spent. 

“We look forward to our dialogue on this,” Rogers said. “This is meant to be a first start to set us on a direction to address some things we really need to address in the coming months and thought that these funds would be a good way to do it.” 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the July 27, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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