Coronavirus - COVID-19 money - cash

READING, Pa. – During its Monday night meeting, Reading City Council discussed how the city will plan to use the $61.1 million it will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Managing Director Abraham Amoros gave a brief presentation on how the city prefers to use the most recent round of COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government.

"We get one bite at this apple, and we have until 2024 to commit and until 2026 to spend it," Amoros said about deciding how to spend the money.

"The mayor wishes to emphasize infrastructure," he added. This will allow us to fix our streets and sidewalks and give us something that will improve the quality of life."

Amoros said the funds cannot be used to replenish the city budget reserve funds; for personnel beyond Dec. 31, 2024; for outstanding debt; or for pensions.

The rules do allow the city to hire a consultant to assist with analyzing and administering the funds. Amoros said the city is seeking three estimates from potential consultants.

"We're going to take this very seriously," he said. "We are not going to rush this through. We have discussed ways to ensure the public knows more about this."

Councilwoman Donna Reed stressed the importance of the opportunity.

"This is likely the biggest infusion of capital from the federal government since the Depression years," Reed said. "I think it is so incredibly important that this is a legacy situation. One hundred years from now, people will look back and say, 'They did the right things.'"

Whatever recommendations the administration will make, all expenditures of the funds will have to be approved by a majority of council.

"It's nice to know that we have three years of solid planning to put this money to work," President Jeffrey Waltman said. "This is a lot of money that can be used for a lot of good things."

Waltman asked the administration to continue to report to council on the progress of meetings concerning the potential use of the funds.

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