City Council meets to discuss American Rescue Plan funds

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Today we’re getting a first look at how Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland would like to use 161-million dollars in federal pandemic dollars. Our Jonee’ Lewis was live from city hall to listen in on the discussion.

The city calls this money precious one-time dollars. And while the mayor says it’s not enough to address every issue we have, this is certainly a great start.

“So many of these things we could not do out of our normal budget and the pandemic made these challenges in Memphis worse.” Mayor Jim Strickland tells us.

City leaders hope the money from the American Rescue Plan Act will help address some of these challenges.

Public safety and crime top are priorities in the city of Memphis. Mayor Strickland would like to use nearly five million dollars for his violence intervention program.

Pointing to violent crime in the city, “our number one challenge for city government has been crime. Violent crime particularly has really risen during the pandemic and at the same time we’re losing police officers” Mayor Strickland tells us.

If this plan is approved, 12-million dollars will go to police and fire recruitment efforts and another half a million to create a new police unit for felony assaults.

Strickland spoke about crime-fighting initiatives, “our crime plan is comprehensive. It’s not just hire more police officers. It’s also mentoring young people and giving them something to do and turning their lives around.”

A new partnership with Shelby County Schools and the Boys and Girls Club will assist in this endeavor.

Today’s proposal calls for nine-million dollars in ARPA funds to expand after school programs. Mayor Strickland again emphasized a comprehensive approach to crime, “we’ve got to intervene in the lives of young people. The last year and a half has been really tough for young people and giving them opportunities for after school programing at their schooling like at Craigmont is amazing.”

Support welcomed from SCS Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray just a day after the state announced this year’s TCAP results showing significant learning loss. Dr, Ray reminds us that Shelby County Schools are in need of funding, “we need all the support that we can get. Our children they’ve been through so much and we want to ensure they have a world class education right here in Memphis.”

The mayor added remote learning and working from home emphasized a need for better, high-quality broadband access. “Having access to the internet is as important now as access to electricity 10 years ago” Mayor Strickland tells us.

25 million dollars in his proposal would address internet access.

The City Council did not vote on the mayor’s proposal today. Mayor Strickland is hopeful approval for this plan happens by the Fall.

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