On May 25, the City Council voted to appropriate some of the last of New Orleans’ federally awarded American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) monies—$388 million awarded to the City to help with revenue losses from the COVID-19 health crisis. The funds were to be spent on responding to the public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic, providing premium pay to essential workers, providing government services to the extent of revenue loss due to the pandemic, and making necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. Under the guise of “public safety,” the Council has attempted to use a large percentage of the funds for the NOPD. Thursday’s vote included funding for a football field in the Lower 9th Ward, and $8 million from ARPA funds to an affordable housing program. The following are some of the public comments.
The three branches of government have got together to build a football place. Three branches of government: the federal government tosses in $3 million, the state tosses in $3 million, the city—$3 million, and somehow it adds up to $10 million. I am amazed how easily it seems to work when everybody’s on board. And then when we do affordable housing the state’s not with us. So, I think that’s a problem.1Michael B.
[This ordinance is] going to ensure that some of our most vulnerable residents can make it to work, get paid what they’re owed, access city services in their own language, and keep a roof over their heads. As I laid out before, and as BGR pointed [out] to you, we need and deserve a transparent process for making decisions about [ARPA] fund balances, and piecemeal [measures] added into ordinances at the last minute with increases is not it. 2Maxwell C.
Essential workers, advocates, organizers, and allies have literally begged for a seat at this ARPA allocation table. And today, we’re finally here and we appreciate the work that you’ve done. To get us here we’re at a point where the Council is putting the money where your proverbial mouth is and we appreciate you. I do want to ask that you continue to do the right thing… Prioritize people over police cars, prioritizing our houseless over horses, prioritizing our kids over canines. 3Kelder S
Serving thousands of people [after Hurricane Ida] at the emergency center on Monday, we saw people that relied on the center, relied on the city, relied on the organizers to really get the job done and to meet the need. And a lot of those wounds haven’t gone away. People are having issues with housing, and we’re passing ordinances where police get what they need but there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to the community getting vital resources. Take this seriously. Lives are depending on us doing this effectively and efficiently.4Jordan B
To follow up on this issue, you can email your City councilmembers. To submit a public comment, follow instructions at council.nola.gov. Interested in reading all comments after a meeting? You can email your councilmember or file a public records request.
illustration by Sadie Wiese