MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Memphis City Council members debated how to spend $20 million in federal pandemic funds Tuesday afternoon.
Wanting to move with a greater sense of urgency, the Memphis City Council must soon decide how to spend its designated American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA funds.
With a body of 13 members, everyone has a different idea on the best use of this money.
These one-time federal dollars are supposed to be used to help cities recover from major losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council was allocated $20 million to spend on council initiatives, but they have $40 million in requests.
Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson suggested in committee cutting those requests in half as a way to fund them all, but several council members didn’t agree with that approach.
“Homelessness cannot be cut in half. The pandemic cannot be cut in half. Food desserts cannot be cut in half,” Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen said.
Instead, they are calling on the council as a body to compromise and remember why the funds were given in the first place, keeping the people they serve as the priority when making those decisions.
“There’s an opportunity here to do big catalytic game changing things that can impact people positively for generations and I think the body wants to do that,” said Councilman Chase Carlisle. “I think the council has to refocus itself and find out what are the things we can do that will have real long-term impact as opposed to short little burst.”
Councilman Carlisle will now work with other members to create a plan on priorities for using the money.
He will present that plan in two weeks to be voted on.