In the coming weeks, Oklahoma City leaders will discuss how to spend more than $114 million in federal aid to bolster the city’s recovery from COVID-19 closures.
“It’s a lot of funding to be spent and used very quickly,” said Kenton Tsoodle, Assistant City Manager. “I think it’s something that if we can do it the right way, it can really make a dent in what’s happened in our community.”
In total, Oklahoma received about $1.5 billion from the federal CARES Act, which was passed in March. Oklahoma City was allocated $114,302,395.10.
Recommendations on how to use the money from the city manager’s office were released on Friday. The proposal, which comes in the form of a resolution, is on the agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting.
The recommendations are broken down into three broad categories: COVID-19 response expenditures, testing and tracing, and community support.
About $59 million was recommended for the response expenditures, which includes an array of costs including PPE, digitizing city government meetings and testing city staff for the virus.
For the testing and tracing category, which is described as establishing a community-wide system for both detecting and following the virus, the city manager’s office recommended about $30 million.
Lastly, about $25 million was suggested for community support. This category, according to the resolution, includes assistance to both business and individuals. The resolution calls for $5 million to be added to the city’s small business continuity fund, which provides for the loan program that was quickly exacerbated by businesses that have lost revenue due to the pandemic.
The federal government requires the aid be spent on COVID-19 related expenses that were not budgeted, and it must be used before the end of the calendar year.
“There's a very short timeline on these funds, and we have to get these programs stood up and get them going very quickly,” Tsoodle said.
The city announced last month that every department would need to prepare for budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, with smaller cuts planned for OKC Police and Fire.
City council members will be able to amend any of the recommendations made in the resolution and will make more specific decisions on the federal aid in the coming weeks and months. Tsoodle said the resolution was a “first step,” and the conversation will continue at next week’s council meeting.