LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Mayor Eric Garcetti today spoke at a virtual event and celebrated the one-year anniversary of the federal American Rescue Plan passing Congress, highlighting how the $1.9 trillion stimulus package has helped Los Angeles get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The package gave Los Angeles, the U.S.' second largest city, $1.28 billion. Half of the money was allocated last year and the second half will be given in May of this year.
Garcetti, speaking in a virtual event Thursday with mayors representing cities across the West Coast, highlighted the ways Los Angeles used its portion of the funds, including by providing COVID-19 tests and vaccines, improving parks, launching pilot programs to dispatch mental health professionals instead of armed officers to certain 9-1-1 calls, and providing financial relief to struggling businesses, renters and people with utility debt.
``Many of the (businesses) said it literally was the difference between closing up or not,'' Garcetti said about the Comeback Check Program, which gave $5,000 checks to 5,000 Los Angeles businesses.
The mayor said that the first half of American Rescue Plan dollars received by the city in 2021 was used to pay off the debt that the city was carrying from the first year of the pandemic.
``The metaphor that I use is we had taken all of our savings and we maxxed out our credit cards to stand up testing centers and vaccination centers. We paid all of our reserves down to a dangerous level. We took the credit card out to pay for things, and the (first half of American Rescue Plan funding) basically reimbursed last year,'' Garcetti said.
The remaining half of ARP funding, which the city will receive in May, will pay off the current fiscal year's budget, leaving no American Rescue Plan funding for programs during the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin warned the mayor and City Council in a report released on March 1 to reduce spending since the city won't have extra federal funds.
``This means the homelessness and equity programs created with those funds could be in trouble. It also means the City cannot take on any additional big expenses next fiscal year. The money just isn't there to do so,'' Galperin said.
Regarding programs that the mayor thinks should be prioritized for continued funding, Garcetti said, ``core city services, first and foremost.''
``Making sure that 9-1-1 calls are answered, that the parks programs continue, that the libraries are open. That's really the core, and we looked at anything else that we did as one-time infusions. We won't be able to do Comeback Checks again for our businesses, but they're getting back on their feet,'' Garcetti said.
The mayor, who is awaiting the Senate's confirmation for his ambassadorship to India, said he expects to still be mayor of Los Angeles next month when the city's mayor is scheduled to brief the public on the ``State of the City'' and propose the next fiscal year's budget.