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Phoenix Vice Mayor Suggests Cash Payments To People Hardest Hit By Pandemic

If Phoenix's vice mayor gets his way, some residents might see a city version of a stimulus check. 

During Tuesday’s Phoenix City Council meeting, members discussed ways to spend $396 million from the American Rescue Plan. The city expects to get its first $198 million payment from the federal government any day. A second installment of $198 million will come one year later.

“I do think direct cash to residents that were hit the hardest by the pandemic  without conditions of how to spend it is something we need to look at,” said Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia. “People know how to meet their needs best. We should trust them. The federal government did it three times last year and I think that was successful and so we should look into what it looks like for our residents at the city level.”

The money can be used to help residents and businesses hurt by the pandemic. Cities can also invest in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. 

Assistant City Manager Jeff Barton said residential solid waste collections have increased substantially during the pandemic and the equipment at the 27th Avenue recycling facility is outdated and inefficient. He suggested the council consider using $20 million for upgrades. 

“Right now we’re not operating the 27th Avenue facility, we’re using north gateway exclusively and so we’re actually running that facility a little more than we normally would and so we’re actually — the useful life of that facility is being shortened by the fact that we’re overusing it,” he said.

Councilwoman Debra Stark told KJZZ putting money into infrastructure projects impacted by COVID-19 will benefit the community overall by delaying rate increases.

Barton also presented an option to replace up to $31 million in eligible lost revenue from the Phoenix Convention Center. He said it would protect the general fund from having to cover convention costs. help the center cover annual debt service payments, and would be viewed favorably by credit agencies.

Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia and Councilwoman Betty Guardado said they want as much money as possible to directly support community services and programs and Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari supported free or subsidized bus transportation for residents in need.

City staff will take council suggestions to create a more detailed plan that will be presented in early June.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.