Cincinnati will receive about $292 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, and City Hall already has plans for most of it. Mayor John Cranley on March 24 announced the breakdown recommended by City Manager Paula Boggs Muething, which includes hefty payouts for women- and minority-owned businesses, a $12 million allocation for local arts programs and $1 million for the return of BLINK Cincinnati in 2022.
But City Council member Chris Seelbach believes any celebration tied to the funds is premature, he said Monday.
"We don't know what the guidelines are for where we can spend the money or where we might not be able to spend the money” when it arrives, Seelbach argued.
The city solicitor’s office is still waiting to receive that guidance from the United States Department of the Treasury, according to Samantha Brandenburg with the city solicitor's office. That guidance might not arrive for several weeks.
When it does, the solicitor’s office will work with the city administration to determine which proposals are eligible for funding, Brandenburg said.
In the meantime, Seelbach said he and other members of council feel the pressure of Cranley and Boggs Muething’s already-announced recommendations. He’s worried the public might have interpreted them as promises.
“We are putting the cart before the horse,” he said. "That's the tricky spot that they put us in, because if we want to fund some of the priorities that we feel are important, we have to cut something that they've recommended."
During a news conference Monday, Cranley said he feels confident that the priorities announced already will be supported by the federal government’s final guidance.
"We have enough information,” Cranley said. “We don't have the fine print published yet, but we know enough to know that these projects are eligible and are exactly what Joe Biden and the Democratic Congress are hoping that we will do, which is to invest in the future."
The first chance for the public to weigh in on the city’s use of its American Rescue Plan funds will be the Budget and Finance Committee meeting scheduled for April 12 at 1 p.m.