Council OKs plan to spend $128M in COVID-19 relief funds

SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved a plan for nearly $130 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds that will go to Seattle residents, programs and businesses.

Most of the money will come from virus relief that President Joe Biden signed in March, The Seattle Times reported.

Mayor Jenny Durkan worked with council leaders last month to draft the plan, and the council made minor adjustments. She is expected to sign the legislation.

For example, the council earmarked some economic recovery funds for arts institutions and reserved a greater share of business-district grants for neighborhoods outside downtown.

“This is our chance to build back better and to build back more equitably,” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said.

Seattle’s plan allocates: $49 million for housing and homelessness efforts, including property acquisition, tiny homes, encampment outreach and vehicle safe lots; $25 million for cash assistance to Seattle households impacted by the pandemic; $23 million for economic recovery, including grants for small businesses; $17 million for other supports, including child care worker wage supplements; and $14 million for city operations, including opening wading pools at parks.

Durkan and the council opted to spread the federal money across many efforts. In each case, the dollars are meant to target people disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, including Black, Indigenous and Latino people.

Mayoral candidate Bruce Harrell has argued most of the money should be used to deal with homelessness. However, housing and homelessness will receive more money than any other area, the mayor and council have countered.

They also said Seattle’s plan will complement King County’s spending. The County Council approved $631 million in relief spending last month, dedicating large sums to rental assistance and behavioral health.

Seattle will receive a second, $116 million allotment from the American Rescue Plan for spending in 2022.