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Little Rock says $19M received from relief package

2nd half of allotted funds expected to arrive in a year by Joseph Flaherty | May 24, 2021 at 7:30 a.m.
FILE - A sign outside the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The city of Little Rock has received the first half of an expected $37 million in aid from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, according to the city’s finance director.

The city has received nearly $19 million, finance director Sara Lenehan confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via email Thursday.

A day earlier, Lenehan said the city on Wednesday received an email from the Treasury Department stating that the American Rescue Plan money had been processed for a payment amount of slightly more than $18.8 million.

The second tranche of the federal cash is expected to arrive 12 months from now, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

Approved in March, the federal pandemic-relief package provided for approximately $350 billion in aid to states, counties, cities, territories and tribal governments, in addition to direct payments for many Americans and an expanded child tax-credit program.

Little Rock’s share of the $2.6 billion expected to flow to governments in Arkansas is the largest among the cities in the state that are set to receive aid.

The state government is expected to receive $1.57 billion.

Pulaski County is due to receive $76 million.

Parameters for how the aid can be spent are relatively broad.

According to the Treasury Department, acceptable spending categories include public health; premium pay for essential workers; revenue replacement in the public sector; and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure work.

City officials have not said how Little Rock plans to use the stimulus money.

Earlier this month, Lenehan said the mayor and city manager would assemble recommendations and create a spending plan for approval by the city board. Projects expected to cost more than $50,000 would have to receive routine city board approval, she said.

Members of the board are weighing a plan from Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to permanently raise the city’s sales-tax rate by 1 percentage point in order to provide more money for parks, public safety, early-childhood education and the Little Rock Zoo, among other initiatives. The proposal has been dubbed “Rebuild the Rock.” But during the sales-tax debate, some board members expressed doubts about forging ahead with a sales-tax increase while the federal money was still on its way to the city.

City directors voted May 11 to table the sales-tax package for two months, deferring the mayor’s request to call a summer special election until the board’s July 13 meeting.

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