PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A preliminary vote has passed Pittsburgh’s spending plan for $335 million in COVID-19 relief funds, despite local groups and activists saying councilmembers didn’t get enough public input before making the decision.
It was a 7-2 vote to move the four-year proposal forward. The votes against were District 8 Councilwoman Erika Strassburger and District 7 Councilwoman Deb Gross. They both feel the public hasn’t had enough input.READ MORE: National Weather Service Confirms 2 Tornadoes In Beaver County
After discussing the ARP money for more than an hour, city council tentatively passed the four-year plan for how to spend the city’s portion of those funds.
“We are now stabilizing our workforce, which is a lot of employees that were worried they were going to lose their jobs,” District 5 Councilman Corey O’Connor said.
Councilman O’Connor voted “yes.” He said about $177 million will immediately stabilize the city’s budget and changes can be made to where the rest of the money goes for future years.
Not everyone is on board with the plan. Some members feel the public hasn’t had a seat at the table.
“We are not here to delay such urgent needs in the city’s communities. We are simply just asking that our voices be heard before a final decision is made,” Natisha Washington with One PA said during the meeting.READ MORE: Overnight Closure Planned For Pa. Turnpike Between Allegheny Valley And Monroeville Exits
Councilwoman Strassburger and Gross want the money to help the city’s immediate needs. They feel planning four years out needs more input and discussion. Meanwhile, Council President Theresa Kail-Smith argued more time isn’t going to change much.
“Taking a vote today and then doing public comment is disingenuous,” Councilwoman Strassburger said.
“I don’t think anything was going to change. I think it’s disingenuous to pretend we were going to change something just because we had more meetings or delayed it a little bit longer,” Council President Kail-Smith said.
With a new administration coming in January, Democratic Mayoral Nominee Ed Gainey agreed the public should play a larger role in where this money goes.
“I believe that’s how you build a city, by being more engaging to the residents here and giving them a voice in it,” he said.
Mayor Bill Peduto did not have a comment on Wednesday’s preliminary vote. The final vote is set for Tuesday.MORE NEWS: More Than 240 Runners Complete 150-Mile Relay From Pittsburgh To Maryland On Great Allegheny Passage
Here is a breakdown of how the money is planning to be spent.