The Memphis City Council has voted to accept the first half of the American Rescue Plan Act funding – $80.5 million.

by James Coleman —

The influx of the first half of the American Rescue Plan Act funding – $80.5 million – drew few objections from Memphis City Council members during their Tuesday (June 1) meeting, as they voted to accept the windfall. 

The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill aimed at speeding up the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession.

Memphis’ total share is expected to be $160 million, although Memphis CFO Shirley Cook warned the council earlier that the number could change.

The rest of the funding is due within the year. The city has the next three-and-a-half years to use the payments. However, how the money will be used is still up in the air.

The council delayed final votes on Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposed $1.4 billion budget and new tax rates Tuesday over the question. The move was expected.

Both the council and Strickland are waiting for guidance from the federal government about the potential uses for the money. 

Council Budget Committee Chair Worth Morgan was the lone no vote.

The council also voted to give the city’s five-year-old disparity initiative another two years.

The study is an analysis of how the city’s money is spent on contracts and services. It scrutinizes how much should flow to minority and women-owned businesses, as well as the number of businesses owned by minorities and women. Racial disparities are also examined.

To apply for the city’s Equal Business Opportunity program, vendors must be certified every year. Certification demands the vendor meet certain benchmarks in diversity.

A new study is expected to be commissioned during the extension. The Shelby County Commission recently approved a new disparity study.

Again, Morgan was the only no vote.