Come Back With More Detail And We’ll Talk: Council Delays Plan For Rescue Money


The Birmingham City Council Facebook Page

Birmingham’s efforts to distribute millions of dollars of federal American Rescue Plan funding hit a snag Tuesday after councilors took issue with the vagueness of Mayor Randall Woodfin’s proposed allocations.

The city received the first half of its ARP funding, $74 million, in May; it will receive the second $74 million tranche next year. The council has already allocated some of that first half — about $17.5 million — toward premium pay for city employees who worked through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Woodfin proposed to divide the remaining $53.1 million into the following categories: $3 million for community-based public safety initiatives, $1.5 million to COVID-19 response, $18 million for neighborhood revitalization projects, $18.75 million for public transportation, $4.5 million for small business support, $1.1 million for employee vacation buyouts, $4.75 million for tourism and $1.5 million for grant writing and professional services to pursue other federal funding sources.

Kelvin Datcher, Woodfin’s director of intergovernmental affairs, said the proposal was meant to allocate the ARP money into broad “buckets,” and that all projects and proposals within those categories would still require council approval.

“This allows us to begin that process by setting dollars into budget lines,” he said.

But councilors balked anyway, saying they were blindsided by parts of the mayor’s proposal. District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams told Datcher that he felt “bamboozled,” as his discussions with Woodfin’s team had omitted the $18.75 allocation to public transportation.

“We met this past week, or I thought we did,” Williams said, “only a matter of days ago, and there’s about $20 million that wasn’t discussed when we met … I am disappointed that we had an hour-and-a-half meeting and there was an omission of one-third of what’s on this sheet today.”

Other councilors, including District 3’s Valerie Abbott and District 8’s Steven Hoyt, lamented the lack of specific reasoning behind the allocations.

“How did we arrive at these figures?” Abbott asked. “Clearly there is someone who looked at these issues … That’s what I want. I want to know what these figures were based upon and what we can do with the money in these categories. I know these figures were not just pulled out of the sky.”

Woodfin responded by saying that the numbers were “pulled out of the sky” — including the $18 million allocated to neighborhood revitalization projects, which will be divided evenly among the nine council districts.

“None of these other buckets have any detail because they’re just buckets,” he said. “What you all are voting for is not trees, it’s literally the forest.”

The council remained unconvinced, opting instead to delay the item until a committee of the whole meeting when more details could be provided. That meeting will likely happen July 29 or Aug. 2, Council President William Parker said, and the proposal will come before the council again Aug. 3.

Woodfin had scheduled a joint news conference with the council to discuss the ARP allocations after Tuesday’s meeting; shortly after the council’s vote, his office announced that the conference had been indefinitely postponed.


What to know about Alabama abortion rights after SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion. Here’s what the decision means for the Gulf South region.

Alabama OKs $725M bond sale to build 2 supersize prisons

That money will be added to $135 million in state funds and $400 million in pandemic relief dollars that the state already agreed to put toward the project.

Britt wins tumultuous Alabama Senate race scrambled by Trump

Katie Britt won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama Tuesday, defeating six-term Rep. Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump took the unusual step of rescinding his initial Brooks endorsement.

2022 Alabama primary runoff results

Republicans will be choosing between Katie Britt and Roy Moore as their nominee for U.S. Senate. Democrats will pick a nominee for governor between Yolonda Flowers and Malika Sanders-Fortier.

Voters go back to the polls Tuesday for primary runoffs

Party runoff ballots are fairly light for Tuesday’s election. But at the top of the Republican ballot is the nomination to the U.S. Senate. At the top of the Democratic ballot is nomination to the governor’s race.

More BirminghamWatch Coverage