Orange County Justice Fund: How Irvine and Other Orange County Cities Can Use American Rescue Plan Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to Protect the Most Vulnerable and Those Impacted by the Pandemic

Letter from the Orange County Justice Fund:

September 27, 2021

How Irvine and Other Orange County Cities Can Use American Rescue Plan (“ARP”) Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to Protect the Most Vulnerable and Those Impacted by the Pandemic

The City of Irvine will receive $56,433,217 million from the federal American Rescue Plan. The stated objectives for this once-in-a-lifetime emergency funding from the federal government include supporting immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses, and addressing systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic.

Recent Amendment to the Initial Proposal

The proposal for Irvine’s allocation of this money was recently improved somewhat based on deliberations and comments made at a recent Finance Commission meeting. The Finance Commission should be commended for a recent change to the proposal which now earmarks $5 million for assistance to the most vulnerable individuals, families, and small businesses, with details to be determined based on input from local community partners. This recent change to the city’s proposal is a good start, but it represents less than 10% of the total emergency funding the city will receive. There is still much room for improvement.

The city is still proposing to spend $5.2 million of this federal emergency rescue plan money on athletic fields, drainage improvements, tree plantings, drought tolerant plants, and drip irrigation. The city has also proposed spending $6 million of this federal rescue money on a variety of traffic and mobility projects, including signal upgrades, the construction of missing sidewalk segments, bicycle and pedestrian projects, and a pilot intra-city shuttle service. The proposed spending also designates $625,000 to modernize the city’s employee fitness center and locker room.

Irvine Resolution No. 21-05 Reaffirming and Citing Irvine’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity and
Inclusion

A resolution passed unanimously by the city council on January 26, 2021 states that “we strive to ensure that every person living and working in our community is treated with fairness and has access to equitable services and opportunities.” The City of Irvine has an opportunity to spend the bulk of this pandemic rescue plan money in accordance with its stated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion while directly addressing the pandemic’s negative economic impact on local residents, workers, and students.

The Need for Additional Amendments to Irvine’s Recommendation

Regular maintenance and ongoing budget obligations should be paid for with other revenue sources, not with federal taxpayer dollars from this rescue plan, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden to address negative economic impacts from the pandemic, and, as stated in the
federal guidelines, can include direct cash transfers to households and nonprofits. The federal guidelines for this money state that assistance to households can include, but is not limited to:

  • Food assistance.
  • Rent, mortgage, or utility assistance.
  • Counseling.
  • Legal aid to prevent eviction or homelessness.
  • Cash assistance.
  • Job training to address negative economic or public health impacts experienced due to a
    worker’s occupation or level of training.

Next Steps

The City Finance Commission and City Council should carefully review how this money is to be allocated and consider each proposed line item in terms of how it addresses negative economic, social, or public health impacts resulting from the pandemic, and how it strengthens our community in preparation for
future challenges.

The City Finance Commission will discuss the proposed spending of this American Rescue Plan money at a special meeting on Monday, September 27 at 5:30. Public comments submitted by 3:30 PM on Monday, September 27 will be distributed to the Finance Commision at the meeting and entered into
the record. Comments may be submitted by email at FMSP@CITYOFIRVINE.ORG.