City Studies How to Spend Rescue Plan Funds

First published in the Nov. 5 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

Although no decisions were reached, the City Council used a study session last week to gain a better understanding of how it can spend millions of dollars received through the American Rescue Plan Act.
South Pasadena will receive more than $6 million, which needs to be spent by 2026. The council did not make any official decisions on how to spend funding received through ARPA at the Oct. 27 study session.

“I want to remind my public council members that $6 million over a period of five years really isn’t a lot of money,” said Councilman Jack Donovan. “Unless we’re going to pick one project and say ‘OK, we’re going to put all the money here,’ but I don’t think that’s the intent.”
In May, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced state and local fiscal recovery funds to help ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of ARPA, $350 billion in funding went toward state, local, territorial and tribal governments.
Of that money, $1.22 billion went to California’s small cities, of which South Pasadena received $6 million.
The funds are paid in two installments, with $3,029,618 paid in July and the remainder to come in June. The funds must cover costs incurred March 3 through Dec. 31, 2024, and projects must be completed when the program finally ends in 2026. The financial relief can be put toward public health, and also can include COVID-19 mitigation, such as purchases for personal protection equipment or investments in public facilities so they can meet operational needs during a pandemic.
It can also serve as assistance to unemployed workers and household assistance such as rent, mortgage, legal aid against eviction, burials and home repairs. The money can also fund premium pay for “essential workers,” such as those at hospitals, grocery stores, schools and in shipping.
Of all the possible projects the council discussed, the ones involving broadband connectivity and information technology infrastructure piqued the most interest.
“We had a laundry list for IT infrastructure improvements, various softwares, apps because that creates engagement with the community,” City Manager Arminé Chaparyan said.
“So, I think as we have further discussion in the next few weeks, we really do want to have some key focus on information technology as a huge topic and those will certainly quality under ARPA.”
Councilman Jon Primuth voiced an idea to create a local app that could disseminate and collect public safety and health information, while also providing election information.
Chaparyan suggested creating a permit-tracking software that would allow those who have submitted plans to check on the status of the permit. Staff members could also submit comments and communicate with those seeking permits.
An improved IT and workflow systems would be helpful for remote workers and going paperless could help get public health updates from local government to residents faster, city officials concluded.
The city will develop a process to manage and monitor how the funds are used. ARPA funds can be used to hire consultants or contractors to help with that process and provide annual reports on how ARPA funding is being used.
Moving forward, city staff will gather cost estimates for projects mentioned in the study session and plan more discussions with the community and the council.