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Spokane allocates remaining COVID-19 relief funding ahead of cutoff

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(The Center Square) – Spokane’s City Council ended months of debate on Monday over how to spend the city’s remaining $5 million in COVID-19 relief funds, propping up multiple programs and projects.

Spokane received $81 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding throughout the pandemic, with a considerable amount having gone toward recurring expenditures. The risky financial decision ultimately snowballed into Spokane’s current structural deficit of approximately $50 million.

Over the extended debate, the council developed five proposals, each allocating funds in different amounts toward similar initiatives. Most of the proposals directed funding toward addiction and homelessness resources, a new housing model and building new childcare facilities.

The elected officials ultimately opted for Councilmembers Zack Zappone and Paul Dillon’s joint proposal with Council President Betsy Wilkerson, which splits the approximately $5 million that remains up the most.

“This last significant allocation of American Rescue funding is an investment in our community,” Zappone said in a news release. “From addressing homelessness to improving youth activities and health to cleaning and securing neighborhoods, this allocation of funding invests in every neighborhood across the city.”

Spokane’s City Council allocated the remaining ARPA funding as such:

$1,876,233 to reduce the impacts of homelessness downtown$225,000 for childcare capital projects$550,000 for municipal criminal justice services$250,000 for scholarships and equipment for youth sports$503,576.36 for cleaning up garbage around Spokane’s neighborhoods$14,000 for trash cans in the East Sprague Business Improvement District$150,000 for residential street lighting$166,000 for “alleyway activation” or creating more routes for multi-modal traffic like walking and bicycling$50,000 for a downtown housing study$100,000 for the Office of the Police Ombudsman$100,000 for purchasing a vehicle for behavioral health services$250,000 for a marketing campaign highlighting the state’s Working Families tax credit$200,000 for a school-based health center $300,000 for facility and equipment improvements at the downtown fire station$150,000 for the Cannon Hill Pond lining project

The federal government required ARPA funding recipients to allocate the relief by the end of 2024, with the remainder spent by the end of 2026, or they would face forfeiting the money. Monday’s decision allows Spokane to continue using the funding as allocated through the 2026 deadline.

“This funding provides a critical boost for programs and services that so many in Spokane rely on daily,” Dillon said in the release. “We’re creating additional capacity for more treatment options, cleaning downtown, childcare expansion, criminal justice, housing, and more. I am especially grateful for Councilmember Jonathan Bingle and Councilmember Lili Navarrete, who worked hard to connect projects across all Districts and provide the foundation for the final package that passed.”