Allentown City Hall

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Allentown City Council held its second special meeting Wednesday night to determine how to spend American Rescue Plan funds.

The ARP funds are designated to combat COVID-19-related losses. The first installment is expected to total $28,574,240. Allentown will eventually receive a total of $57,483,557.17 as its cut from the federal government.

President Julio Guridy termed Wednesday night's meeting as "informational." Council received a modified administrative budget based on requests made at last month's meeting.

"I think they've made it a little easier for us and for the public to understand," said Guridy.

The agenda included four categories: capital projects, community reinvestment, fiscal stabilization and COVID-19 response.

"We are trying to pass this as a budget," said Leonard Lightner, the city's director of community and economic development. "… We are trying to find a way to be good stewards of the funds and not increase the tax base."

Mayor Ray O'Connell administration's initial budget designated more than $32.5 million to go to the city's infrastructure improvements, which address a gamut of issues. They include roof replacements and storm sewer improvements.

By spending ARP funds to make these repairs and replacements, the city's taxpayers would save money over the long term, according to Craig Messinger, the city's director of public works.

The budget also includes funds for Jordan Pool and Irving Spray Park.

During Wednesday night's meeting, the administration noted it had increased funding for nonprofits to $4 million from $2.5 million.

Tourism is now at $3 million with no specific organization receiving any guaranteed money. Organizations seeking these funds would need to submit an application to receive the money, according to Lightner.

"We have to be fair," Guridy said. "We have to make sure these groups are sustainable."

Councilmembers took turns questioning administration members about priorities and expressed an interest in hearing from their own "experts" about how to spend the funds.

The legislative body took no votes on any items Wednesday night.

"Next week we will vote on things, hopefully," Guridy said.

President Joseph Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law March 11. A total of $45.6 billion is going to cities, with $350 billion overall allocated to state, local, territorial and tribal governments.

Most local governments are expected to receive their funds in two installments, with 50% coming now and the rest coming next year.

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