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ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Allentown City Council approved an ordinance formally establishing an American Rescue Plan Act Fund budget during its Wednesday night meeting.

The budget amount, more than $28.5 million, represents the first of two allocations from the federal government to Allentown. The city will eventually receive nearly $57.5 million in total.

Mayor Ray O'Connell's administration initially offered a spending plan for the money Sept. 14. Council requested a revised budget and offered various suggestions. As a result, the city offered another version last month.

The vast majority of the money — nearly $36 million — would be spent on various capital improvement projects. These projects include water filters at the city's distribution plant, three miles of water main replacements, storm sewer improvements and broadband.

About $16.3 million would be spent on housing assistance, nonprofit organizations, tourism, small businesses and a disparity study. Another $4.5 million would got to fiscal stabilization, while $700,000 would go to COVID-19 response categories, such as ambulances and a mobile health clinic.

The bill was approved along with an amendment, known as Bill 89, introduced during the meeting by Councilman Edward Zucal. The basis of the amendment was to provide expenditures for the various capital projects and to leave the remaining funds in the unrestricted ARP assets. The amendment also authorized the administration to make adjustments to the account allocations to reflect the approved expenditures.

"It's important to get this moving," said Councilman Daryl Hendricks. "It benefits the citizens by saving them tax dollars down the road."

"I think we did a wonderful thing today," said President Julio Guridy.

In other news, council approved amending the city's 2021 capital fund balance to provide for a supplemental appropriation toward the construction of the Jordan Creek Greenway Trail. The fund will allow for the construction of the Greenway Trail that runs from Jordan Park and Route 145 to Fourth and Turner streets. The trail is vital in connecting Jordan Park to downtown Allentown. The amount approved Wednesday night was $486,273.

In other business, council OK'd the city's general fund to hire six new police officers. The bill approved by council allows the city to submit for reimbursement of their salaries under the 2017 Department of Justice COPS Hiring Program.

In October 2017, the city was awarded $750,000 to fund these positions. The original grant budget was based on a three-year plan, which the police department said would be adjusted for each year of the grant. For year one of the grant, Allentown's financial match commitment for all six officers is $10,985.

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