5 things to know about Detroit’s plan for epic federal aid

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Detroit has already received $413 million and will receive the second half in May 2022. The City needs to figure out by the end of 2024 out how it is going to spend the money. (Shutterstock photo)

The City of Detroit has established a road map on how it aims to spend over a half billion dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act. In many ways, the debate on the City’s plan has just started. 

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Many in the Motor City hope the federal funding will vastly improve Detroit’s toughest problems. Poverty, violence, lack of affordable housing, not enough jobs and job training, home repairs, boosting small businesses, high-speed drifting, trashy streets and unusable alleys, are just a few of the problems facing the city. 

Here are five things to know about Detroit’s goals for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

Detroit got the fifth largest amount of any U.S city. 

APRA is the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill passed in March. 


Parts of APRA have already been delivered. That includes the $1,400 checks sent to millions of Americans and unemployment benefits being extended until September. There’s also the $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants and, coming soon, monthly payments to support the cost of raising children.

The plan also earmarked $350 billion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments. Each entity has wide latitude on how to spend the funding. This is how the Detroit government is getting $826 million directly from the feds. Only four cities — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia — received larger direct amounts.

Detroit has already received $413 million and will receive the second half in May 2022. The funds must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024. That means the City needs to figure out by the end of 2024 out how it is going to spend the money. The money doesn’t need to be spent until the end of 2026. 

Detroit government has a framework on how to spend the $826 million.

Mayor Mike Duggan outlined six six broad categories for the money. (City of Detroit presentation)

This week, the City Council approved Mayor Mike Duggan’s plan  that outlines six broad categories for the money. The categories include: fighting intergenerational poverty; increasing neighborhood investment; sprucing up parks and recreation centers and cultural assets; improving public safety; reducing the digital divide; and boosting small business. 

Officials from the Duggan administration attended more than 60 community meetings since late May to get resident feedback about the mayor’s plan. More than 3,200 residents participated in the meetings. The City received 1,014 responses to the survey. To see the survey results, go to this link.

Duggan pressed for Council approval of the overall plan in order to spend part of the funding in the fiscal year that started July 1.

The debate is really over $426 million.

Detroiters at the Esper Street Block Club listen to City officials explain the funding available to Detroit through the American Rescue Plan Act. (BridgeDetroit photo by Louis Aguilar)

A big chunk of the funding will go to fill the gaping budget hole created by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s the $426 million earmarked for a wide variety of issues that will be the subject of political maneuvering over the next few years.  

The debate has just begun.

A game plan is one thing. Reality is another. As the City government fleshes out details for various programs, there will be plenty of public discussions and opportunities for revision. 

Council must approve many of the contracts and other funding aspects of the plan in the future. Already, two Council members are lobbying for change. Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield seeks a dramatic boost, $105 million, to find ways to increase homeownership for low- and moderate-income residents. Councilmember James Tate aims for $16 million to support grassroots groups working to combat gun violence. 

Remember, too, this is an election year, so Detroit could have a new mayor next year. The nine-member City Council is guaranteed an overhaul because three incumbents are not seeking re-election and one seat is currently open. That leaves open the possibility that the entire game plan could be re-examined. 

Forces outside Detroit could spark change. 

The State of Michigan, Wayne County, the State Legislature and even the federal government could force the City to change its priorities. 

State government is getting $6.5 billion in ARPA funding, Wayne County is receiving $339.7 million. There’s another $3.7 billion earmarked for K-12 schools statewide. Detroit is counting on some of that funding to match or boost specific programs in the city. But those various entities  have yet to come up with an overall game plan on how to spend the funds. Once those rules are set, it could prompt a change in Detroit’s strategy. 

Finally, there’s unforeseen disasters, such as an international pandemic or historic flooding that can upend everything, and cause Detroit to once again deal with an unexpected emergency. 

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