The city of Irvine began deliberating Oct. 12 on how to allocate the $56 million it received through the federally funded American Rescue Plan Act.
The $56 million in federal funding is split into five categories: $28 million for quality of life, $5.2 million for the natural environment, $6 million into traffic and mobility, $14.5 million for fiscal strength, and $2.7 million for organizational excellence.
Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan proposed shifting funding from traffic and mobility items—totaling $8 million—and using those funds toward quality of life.
Khan proposed spending $365,000 on ending food insecurity, $1 million for the implementation of a climate action plan, $200,000 to implement a diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan, and $200,000 to install air quality devices near the All American Asphalt plant.
Former Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said she was concerned the council wouldn’t allocate enough money going toward pandemic-related losses, which was the purpose of the rescue plan.
“When it comes to these dollars, I understand that they can be used for infrastructure in the city; but in my opinion, these dollars should be set aside for businesses, for our nonprofit groups. This money should go towards those that really suffered and were going through very difficult times during the pandemic,” Shea told The Epoch Times.
“I just don’t think it should be coming into the city and being used just for general fund expenditures for certain infrastructure plans that really did not relate to the pandemic at all,” she said, citing child care, hospitals, and schools needing more money than general city upgrades.
Shea thought that much more than $360,000 should be going toward food insecurity, especially as the holidays and winter months are approaching.
During the Oct. 12 council meeting, Councilman Anthony Kuo seemed to note similar points.
“These are one-time extraordinary dollars that ought to have a fairly targeted purpose; there are four different opinions here that some of these are really a stretch when it comes to responding to the pandemic,” Kuo said.
When asked about the nexus between the pandemic and employee premium pay, Interim City Manager Marianna Marysheva said employees really stepped up during the pandemic.
“There were a lot of employees who contributed greatly to providing services to the community behind the scenes, so we wanted to reward every single employee for those efforts,” she said.
For the quality of life, the city is considering assisting the individuals, families, children, and small businesses most affected by the pandemic; a behavioral health mobile clinic; support for the One Irvine program, which helps support local communities; community events; youth senior study and survey; playground disinfection program; and more.
Under the natural environment section, the original plan touted citywide tree plantings, field and drainage improvements, and clean water energy conservation drip irrigation installation.
For fiscal strength, the city plans to use the $14.5 million on broadband infrastructure as well as housing costs, and for organizational excellence, the city wants to spend $500,000 on COVID-19 testing and $2.2 million on one-time employee premium pay for city workers.
The mayor also proposed spending $5 million on closing the road repair backlog, as well as $1.5 million for a “complete streets plan” in conjunction with the city’s active transportation plan in order to prioritize increased transportation choices.
The council didn’t approve any funding yet, but will instead make a decision during its next council meeting.