Louisville ARP money and budget surplus will fund these projects

Metro Council members voted Thursday on how to spend Louisville's remaining American Rescue Plan Act money and where to direct a roughly $30 million budget surplus.

Louisville had $58.8 million left of the $388 million in ARP funding it received under the law signed by President Joe Biden to help the nation recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal rules say cities allocate the money by the end of 2024 and fully spend it by the end of 2026. It also must be used on costs incurred after March 3, 2021,

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Here's what Metro Council voted, with no opposition, to use the remaining amount on:

Healthcare Workforce Innovation Coalition

The largest chunk of spending will see $40 million go to supporting a "Healthcare Workforce Innovation Coalition" tackle a staffing "crisis" in Louisville. The proposal came from Metro Council members Anthony Piagentini, R-19th District, and Markus Winkler, D-17th.

According to the proposal, the money will help with a plan specifically focused on three priorities:

  • "Executing a comprehensive, industry led and healthcare-focused workforce strategy that increases and diversifies the healthcare talent pipeline for jobs at all levels by mitigating barriers to training and employment"

  • "Increasing the region’s capacity of workforce innovation for a stronger and more equitable health economy"

  • "Supporting this initiative via the development of a state-of-the art tech and learning center in Russell Station" that prioritizes hiring Russell residents.

Reversing redlining

Of the new allocations, $8 million will go toward combating redlining through "intentional home ownership opportunities" and "stabilizing impacted communities by focusing these efforts on undervalued, abandoned, and vacant properties," according to the Metro Council ordinance.

Council members Keisha Dorsey, Angela Bowens, Barbara Shanklin, Jecorey Arthur, Donna Purvis, Paula McCraney and President David James backed the proposal. They noted the history of redlining involved the Federal Housing Administration and other agencies, starting in the 1930s, refusing to insure mortgages in and near predominantly Black neighborhoods and then coloring parts of maps red to indicate to appraisers that certain neighborhoods were "too risky."

Veterans housing

This initiative will use $5 million to create housing for veterans on more than 12 acres in southwest Louisville in partnership with Volunteers of America.

The plan was backed by Metro Council members Cindi Fowler, D-14th, Rick Blackwell, D-12th, and Amy Holton Stewart, D-25th.

The site will "encompass 42 dwelling units and community spaces for support groups, case management services, recreational gatherings, etc.," the proposal says.

Fowler said the property is on the east side of Dixie Highway between Stonestreet Road and East Pages Lane, and it will include a "community building" along with "wraparound services."

Foreclosure funding

Develop Louisville will get $758,000 to pursue "Metro foreclosures on vacant and abandoned property to force an ownership change" to increase affordable long-term housing and improve safety.

"Foreclosure funding would be targeted toward vacant and abandoned properties within a 1-mile radius of an interstate ramp and specific to South Urban neighborhoods excluded from Metro's revitalization area such as: Beechmont, Hazelwood, Jacobs, Lucky Horseshoe, Oakdale, Old Louisville, Southside, Taylor Berry, and Wilder Park," the proposal says.

Doula Dash project

"Prenatal and postpartum services" will get $100,000, including "doula services, lactation services, and transportation for people at risk of increased maternal and infant mortality." The proposal notes the mortality rates have increased since the pandemic and disproportionately affect Black residents.

The "Doula Dash" program referenced in the proposal is an effort by Granny's Birth Initiative, a Louisville group that supports "disenfranchised birthing families," to have doulas to act like ride-hailing drivers by taking expecting or new parents to prenatal and postpartum appointments. Metro Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-8th, is supporting the program with a $10,000 grant from her district.

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Library renovation and expansion

The remaining ARP allocation includes $5 million for additional support for Louisville Free Public Library renovation projects that were funded in a previous round but had "higher than budgeted costs," per a proposal, which does not provide more specifics on which library branches require more funds for renovations and reopening.

The various projects that council members funded this year included reopening the Parkland ($800,000) and Fern Creek ($5 million) branches as well as renovating and expanding the Portland ($800,000) and Main ($8 million) library branches.

How to use Louisville's $30.7 million budget surplus

Metro Council members also voted 23-2 during Thursday night's meeting to approve a plan to distribute the city's $30.7 million budget surplus from the 2022 fiscal year.

One key project proposed by Fowler that was initially included in the ARP request but not given the federal money is a new birthing center at UofL Health - Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in the South End.

Council members instead approved using $8.25 million of the surplus to support the new birthing center at the 298-bed hospital at 1850 Bluegrass Ave.

Capital expenses for the center will total about $20 million, according to the project request document, which noted the last birth at the hospital was in 1974. The budget surplus ordinance has a provision "requiring proof of matching funds by the recipient" and other repayment requirements if the birthing center closes within 10 years of opening.

Council members also will save about $12.5 million for "future operating and capital needs," with Hollander noting that the 2023 fiscal year budget approved in June adds $11 million to the Rainy Day Fund. Hollander told The Courier Journal the fund now stands at $83.7 million.

Members voting against the surplus-related ordinance were Metro Councilmen Scott Reed, R-16th, and Brent Ackerson, D-26th, with Ackerson urging his colleagues to hold more debate into 2023 on the spending, especially if fears of a looming recession come true.

The final ordinance does not include every item that Mayor Greg Fischer and some council members wanted for the surplus, such as more funding for Metro Public Health to continue wastewater monitoring for COVID-19. Members had also voted down various amendments during a Budget Committee meeting last month, such as a pitch to use $1.2 million to provide emergency shelter to unhoused families during the winter.

Part of the surplus also will go to some parks-related projects, including $100,000 (a reduction from the $1.4 million initially sought) for "the shoring or demolition" of the Hogan's Fountain Pavilion in Cherokee Park that city officials said could get demolished without a pricey repair. The surplus ordinance also has $100,000 helping implement the Parks for All initiative, $24,000 for a national search for a new parks director and $20,000 helping "pursue state funding" for aquatic centers.

A separate ordinance approved Thursday via the consent agenda increases funding for renovations of the former Youth Detention Center ($3.11 million), continuation of the Louisville Metro Police Impound Lot ($1.49 million) and demolition of LMPD's headquarters at Seventh and Jefferson streets ($1.58 million).

Reach Billy Kobin at bkobin@courierjournal.com

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville Metro Council approves ARP, budget surplus spending