As the country continues recovering from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Milpitas is expected to receive $16.7 million from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan.
The $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden in March is meant to help restart the economy by providing direct aid to Americans and covering the cost of local governments’ lost revenues, among other things.
After gathering feedback from the Milpitas City Council and residents, city officials this week presented a plan to spend the nearly $17 million check on 22 different programs and projects across five investment areas.
The allocations include $2.2 million for community services, $4.2 million for economic vitality, $4.1 million for infrastructure, $2.2 million for public safety, and $4.1 million for technology.
Following four hours of debate, the council ultimately decided on cutting $1 million from the $3 million human resources and financial management system line item, which fell under the technology category. Instead, they chose to allocate the money to direct services, such as workforce development or mental health and domestic violence services.
“This money is really for the community, and I’m really in a sense disappointed that more of it was going to the city government instead of the people,” Vice Mayor Carmen Montano said. “It needs to go to the people.”
Councilwoman Karina Dominguez said it was critical to use the funds to support services usually provided by the county.
“Things move very, very slow at the county,” she said. “I currently feel that we really need to invest in mental health, the services for domestic violence victims, LGBTQ community, and our seniors. They really need that support.”
The council plans on holding another special meeting in June to continue its discussion of the funds, after city officials reallocate the $1 million to other direct services.
Earlier this month, a chief fire enforcement officer position held by Eric Emmanuele, who has worked for the City of Milpitas since 1990, was eliminated due to budget cuts. Mayor Rich Tran attempted on Tuesday to save the role using the American Rescue Plan funds.
The defunding of the fire enforcement officer caused an uproar among some community members, including Jackie Romero, who told the council Tuesday night that the position was “defunded without consideration to how much money we had invested as a city in his training.”
“He has so much training that we have paid for it just makes no sense to let somebody go that has that much training,” she added. “He’s an asset to the city.”
Of the $4.4 million going to public safety, $1.2 million has been allocated to fund six previously defunded positions — two police officers and four fire department jobs — for one year.
Tran ultimately “abandoned his advocacy” to reinstate the chief enforcement officer position after city officials said there were already ample personnel and a vacant fire inspector position with similar qualifications to the chief enforcement officer job.
“My concern for the city is maintaining the personnel; titles don’t mean so much to me,” Tran said.
Milpitas received 50 percent of the American Rescue Plan funds on June 1 and will receive the other half in 2022. All funds will need to be encumbered or expended by December 31, 2024, with encumbered funds required to be spent by December 31, 2026.
City officials will continue monitoring new guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and return to the council in August with an updated investment plan. Once the investment plan is finalized, the council will review and approve the amended budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 this fall.