AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has allocated millions of dollars to governmental entities to help cities recover from the economic impacts caused by the pandemic.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the city of Amarillo received more than $39 million from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act. Out of the total, the city received $19.8 million in May 2021 and expects the remaining amount to come in May or June.
In October, the Amarillo City Council approved a spending plan for that initial allocation of the ARPA funds. City officials recently brought together this information on a website, detailing what specific projects the Amarillo City Council approved the funds be used for.
According to the city’s new website, the Amarillo City Council has the ability to decide how to spend the funds for projects within the limitations set forth by the federal government.
“They consider things like which programs have been impacted by the COVID-19pandemic, which projects will have the biggest impact on our community and how the money might be turned into investments that will benefit the city for decades to come,” the website said.
The federal government outlined that the ARPA funds can be used for projects that fit the following criteria, according to the website:
- Replace lost public sector revenue;
- Address negative economic impacts;
- Support public health response;
- Invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure;
- Provide premium pay for essential workers.
Through its new website, city of Amarillo officials outlined the planned use of phase one of its ARPA funds, accounting for $19,838,159. Those projects include:
- Lost City Revenue, $11,205,000 – The revenue recovery funds stem from a formula that calculates the city revenue lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds were used for various council approved operations and projects;
- Senior Citizen Support, $500,000 – These funds support projects for improved ventilation, food insecurity assistance and social distancing support for senior citizens;
- Fire Department, $433,159 – These funds purchased additional lifepacks and provided additional paramedic training for firefighters;
- Park Improvement, $600,000 – These funds purchased new playground equipment in four parks in low to moderate income areas;
- Tourism, $100,000 – These funds provided additional funding to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to promote tourism and stimulate economic recovery for tourism industry;
- Homeless Reintegration, $250,000 – These funds went towards piloting a program that combined the city’s need for better park maintenance with job opportunities for participants in the Coming Home program, a city of Amarillo program that assists the chronically homeless with housing;
- Police Department, $750,000 – These funds went towards purchasing equipment needed to create a crime center that will better monitor local crime due to an increase in gun violence;
- Citywide Broadband Internet Access, $6,000,000 – These funds provided affordable broadband internet connectivity to all Amarillo residents.
The majority of the first phase of the ARPA funds went towards revenue recovery. Laura Storrs, the city of Amarillo’s assistant city manager and the city’s chief financial officer, said that these funds are put back into the city’s general fund.
“Governments of all sizes have been impacted by lost revenue during the pandemic so they came up with a formula to calculate what that amount is,” Storrs said. “We took our numbers pre-pandemic and during the pandemic and put it in the formula and calculated out an amount”
While the city of Amarillo has not received the second phase of the ARPA funds, Storrs said the city council has “earmarked” some of the funds for two projects. These projects include replacing athletic field lighting around community parks as well as the senior living project in the old St. Anthony’s hospital building.
“Beyond that, we will be bringing recommendations to council, probably in the next couple of months, on what the rest of those dollars could potentially be utilized for,” Storrs said.
Storrs said she believes it is important for Amarillo residents to know what projects the funds are being used for because of the potential impact the projects could have on citizens in the short term and the long term.
“This is a really large influx of dollars into our community. The federal government wants us to use this on projects that don’t just affect what’s going on right now, but is affecting things for generations to come,” Storrs said. “We’re working really hard to determine projects that are really going to make an impact on the community now and for several generations. It’s always a big win when we have a big influx of federal dollars coming right here into our area.”
Storrs said the ARPA funds the city of Amarillo receives are required to be spent before the end of 2026. For more information about the city’s allocation of the ARPA funds, visit the city’s new website.