Little Rock expected to receive second payment of nearly $19M in federal aid within days, official says

$12.3M in expenses recommended

FILE - A sign outside the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau is shown in this 2019 file photo.
FILE - A sign outside the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The second of two payments of American Rescue Plan Act funding to the city of Little Rock should be received within days, members of the city board were told Tuesday.

The federal covid-19 economic package President Joe Biden signed into law in March 2021 included approximately $350 billion in direct aid to local governmental entities.

Little Rock's allocation of more than $37 million under the legislation was the largest out of any city in Arkansas receiving aid from the federal government. The first half of the money, totaling $18.8 million, was received in May 2021.

Under a set of resolutions passed last year and this year, city officials have allocated the entirety of the first tranche of aid.

At a meeting Tuesday, Emily Jordan Cox, the city's intergovernmental relations manager, told board members that officials received word Tuesday from the U.S. Treasury Department that the second $18.8 million deposit was in process and should hit the bank in the next couple of days.

Cox also laid out a series of recommended expenditures for the money from the second tranche that add up to $12.35 million, which would leave a remaining balance of approximately $6.5 million.

City staff have recommended spending a total of $2.35 million on capital needs for the Public Works Department.

Landfill needs include the replacement of the sanitary sewer station discharge pumps, which have exceeded their lifespan, Cox said, as well as the leachate pond liner system, which has deteriorated and needs replacing to prevent leakage.

Additionally, the department's collection division requires two side loader trucks that cost approximately $300,000 apiece and two pickups that cost $25,000 each, Cox said.

Other categories of proposed spending include $2 million for parks and community centers, $2 million for a senior center -- likely a revamp of a to-be-determined site with program costs identified outside the scope of the federal funding, Cox said, $1.5 million for infrastructure needs related to economic development, $1 million for affordable housing and $1 million for addressing access to healthy food or food deserts.

Additionally, a $1 million allocation would fund plans for a real-time crime center for use by the Police Department. The city board next week is scheduled to take up a separate resolution authorizing the creation of the center.

Smaller allocations tied to the latest tranche would earmark $500,000 for downtown capital needs and a downtown master plan -- the Downtown Little Rock Partnership would be expected to raise money for any remaining costs associated with the master plan -- as well as $500,000 for community violence intervention programs and $500,000 for Fire Department facility improvements, according to Cox.

After the presentation, at-large City Director Dean Kumpuris criticized what he described as the comparative absence of funding for downtown Little Rock.

Kumpuris said that "to me it is reprehensible that we're gonna spend $31 million on various projects and we think our downtown deserves half a million dollars, and then you're gonna say to people, 'Go raise the rest of the money to do a study.'"

He called it "a slap in the face" and indicated he was prepared to vote no on the proposal.

A resolution on the federal funding is expected to be presented for a vote at the board's meeting next week, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said Tuesday.

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