Columbus City Council requests input on how to spend rest of COVID-relief funds

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 11:29 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Last year, Columbus received a total of $78.4 million from the federal government in American Rescue Plan funds. But the big question is, how is that money being spent?

Earlier tonight, city leaders held a public meeting to discuss the allocation of all that money for the first half of the year, and now, they would like input from the public on how to spend the rest of the money.

A little under $40 million is left to be spent and requests have already been submitted for some of that money. Some of those funding requests have been to cover costs associated with affordable housing, financial loss, supply chain issues or lengthy delays caused by the pandemic.

Millions of dollars will be used to fund various projects, organizations and businesses across Columbus and Muscogee County soon.

Last year, the Consolidated government received a total of $78.4 million dollars after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, providing economic relief to help states recover from the pandemic.

The first half of the funds -- a little under $40 million -- was received last summer. Some of those funds were used to purchase automated trash pickup services and provide households with 96-gallon trash bins.

“The truck have been ordered. We have the bins. Most of the citizens, if not all of the citizens have received those bins,” said Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge. “Another item that was utilized in the Phase one funding was the purchase of ambulances. We anticipate delivery of those in the next month or so.”

The second half of the funds was received this summer. However, before those funds are allocated, city leaders held a public meeting for input on how to spend the money on Thursday evening.

“Do something for these neighborhoods. Go give these people some central air and heat. Fix the roofs,” said Columbus Resident Nadine Jenkins who attended the meeting. She suggested giving some of the money to people living in the area instead of continuously funding businesses.

Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge says they’ve already received a list of requests from various places like a $2 million dollar funding request from the Golf Authority.

“We’re not going to use it to buy golf balls. We’re going to use it to keep those folks from downstream from us from being flooded,” said the chairman of the Golf Authority.

Another request has been submitted to provide $700,000 dollars to the City Manager’s office. But City Manager Isaiah Hugley said, if approved, the funding would technically not go to his office. $500,000 would go towards CCGTV the company that streams City Council meetings.

“We’ve got to operate that TV station back there. And our equipment is older. We need to upgrade some things,” said Hugley, saying other funding would be used to pay eight people to serve as full-time community liaisons for each district.

The final list of recommendations will be submitted to City Council for a vote in November. To send your funding suggestions, you can email Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge by clicking here.