Mountain View has nearly $8 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds available to allocate in the city’s next annual budget, and the Mountain View City Council says the time to spend it is now.
At the council’s June 14 budget hearing, staff presented the city’s proposed 2022-23 budget, which projected revenues at $415 million and expenditures at $470 million. Finance Director Jesse Takahashi explained that expenditures are greater than revenues due to some capital projects that are funded from existing balances. According to City Manager Kimbra McCarthy, the budget is structurally balanced and the city is in a healthy place as it continues to recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19.
The city’s positive financial outlook gave the council a chance to focus its attention on the $7.8 million of federal ARPA money that must be allocated by 2024 at the latest, and spent by 2026. In the draft budget, staff recommendations already allocated $6.6 million of the remaining funds, the highest being $1.6 million toward recognizing city employees — particularly in light of the city’s current 82 vacancies, the resulting increased workload on staff, and the high rate of burnout that public sector workers are experiencing, McCarthy said.
Staff also recommended $1.5 million of ARPA funds for Castro StrEATs improvements, $1.3 million toward the Elevate MV guaranteed basic income pilot program, $500,000 for the Community Services Agency, and $500,000 for the Mountain View Solidarity Fund. After staff recommendations, the council had $1.2 million left to allocate.
Multiple community members called in to advocate for an increase in funds for the Mountain View Solidarity Fund, a Latina-led nonprofit that provides financial support to families experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic. Last year, the organization was awarded $1 million from the city budget, with which it helped 400 families.
“The families that benefited from the million are just a part of hundreds of families that continue to experience a difficult economic situation,” said Paula Pérez, a Solidarity Fund leader, who spoke in Spanish through a translator during public comment. “… $500,000 will not be enough to reach all the families who did not have the opportunity to receive any support, either local or federally.”
Perez asked the council to consider raising its allocation to the Fund from the proposed $500,000 to $800,000, which she said would allow 300 families to receive $2,500 each in financial support.
Councilmember Pat Showalter supported the idea to raise the Fund’s allocation to $800,000. But she also said that the council shouldn’t feel rushed to spend all of its extra ARPA funds.
“Because we don’t have to spend this money until 2026, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just not allocating some of it at this point,” Showalter said. “There will undoubtedly be other needs that arise that we don’t know about right now, and it would be good to have some of this money available for the future.”
Other council members took a different viewpoint.
“My thought, frankly, with the extra funding is to try to get it out as quickly as possible, because I still think there is need out there,” said Council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who suggested that the council earmark some funds to support small businesses.
The council ultimately decided to spend down all the remaining ARPA funds, including an additional $300,000 to the Solidarity Fund, an extra $250,000 for workforce development training, and another $300,000 to support small businesses.