Councilwoman Thelda Williams,
City of Phoenix District 1
As our community and others across the county experience increased virus spread, the distribution of a vaccine is critical and welcomed news. Although vaccine distribution is beginning, it is important to continue to practice the basic public health steps outlined by the CDC.
The city of Phoenix is not the lead agency on vaccine distribution, but has been working closely with federal, state and county officials on the planning and logistics of distribution.
The state of Arizona will decide how the vaccine will be allocated to the 15 counties as well as who is prioritized in each phase. We’ve been advised that as the vaccine becomes available it will be distributed in three phases through five regional distribution pods.
Information about vaccine availability and distribution is frequently updated. I encourage you to tune into our state and county public health offices for the most up-to-date schedule.
Shifting to funding allocation, on May 5, 2020, the Phoenix City Council put a plan in action to use federal CARES Act money to help residents impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Phoenix residents should be confident and proud of the way we have worked to distribute these funds. We were one of the first cities in the country to roll out a strategic plan to dispense this money to our community and partner organizations. As a result of that, cities across the country have contacted our professional staff to use the Phoenix model to appropriately distribute coronavirus relief funds.
The city received $293.3 million directly from the U.S. Treasury Department that was intended to cover costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency from COVID-19 and had to be spent by Dec. 30, 2020. Any unspent funds must be returned to the Treasury. It was in the community’s best interest to use every single dollar ahead of the deadline. Any expenses deemed inappropriate by the Treasury when they do an audit of our expenditures will be recouped, meaning we would have to pay back anything that was inappropriate.
The City Council approved and revised a plan that allocated the relief funds into three major categories: Community Investment: $78.2 million; City Operations: $71.8 million; and Reserve to Preserve City Services: $143.3 million.
Despite the unprecedented procurement undertaking in a short timeframe and serious supply chain disruptions, as of early December, the city disbursed approximately $249 million.
Based on the programs and allocations previously approved, staff estimated that all but approximately $43.4 million was spent by the Dec. 30 deadline. Of this amount approximately $34.5 million is still needed to complete and facilitate projects and programs originally approved by City Council for COVID relief and approximately $8.9 million will be available to be reprogrammed.
The City Council approved the use of $43.4 million to further offset Public Safety salaries which would free up additional General Fund resources. The freed up General Fund resources could then be used to continue funding the original projects as needed and to address any issues determined to be high priority by City Council and that required more time than available under the deadline of Dec. 30. The Council agreed to reprogram the remaining approximately $8.9 million as follows:
• $3.3 million for utilities, prevention of homelessness and evictions
• $2 million for project assist
• $1.08 million for business assistance
• $2 million for COVID testing
• $500,000 for food and afterschool programming
While my colleagues and I on the City Council have different political positions, we worked hard to come together to find the best possible use of these funds for our residents. I want to recognize our talented staff lead by City Manager Ed Zuercher, Deputy City Manager Jeff Barton and Finance Director Denise Olson, whose mission it was to quickly and efficiently disburse every penny.
If you need to apply for relief funding, or for more COVID-19 information, testing and resources, visit phoenix.gov/resources. If you have any questions, call my office at 602-262-7444.