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City to set aside virus relief money

Youngstown council votes to create fund for $88M virus relief

YOUNGSTOWN — City council agreed to establish a special fund for $88,629,500 the city will receive in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Council voted 6-0 Wednesday to have Finance Director Kyle Miasek create an American Rescue Plan Fund with half of the money coming to the city in May and the rest in May 2022. Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, was absent from the meeting.

The special fund is needed in order to allow the city to keep it separate from its other funds, according to Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.

The funding comes from a $1.9 trillion federal COVID-19 relief bill, passed along party lines in March with Democrats in the majority in Congress supporting it, and Republicans voting against it.

As part of that package, $350 billion is going to state and local governments.

In the Mahoning Valley, Youngstown is getting the largest allocation.

The money must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.

The city is in the early stages of discussing how it will spend the money. City officials say they don’t want to make any quick decisions, wanting first to have discussions with city leaders, citizens and agencies on the money.

The money can go toward a variety of purposes such as to make up revenue loss, prevent cuts to government services, offer premium pay for essential employees, and complete infrastructure projects including water, sewer and broadband.

Brown has mentioned possibly using the money to eliminate the 500 blighted properties in the city, improve housing quality, clean up corridors, develop a youth employment program, bring in a full-scale grocery store and improve transit accessibility.

He also wants to hire a compliance officer to make sure the city is spending the money properly.

The city received $5.3 million last year in federal COVID-19 relief funds with most of it used to subsidize the general fund by paying the salaries for essential employees that would have come from declining income tax revenue.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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