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No Word On Award, But Bynum Planning Conservative Approach To Spending American Rescue Plan Funds

Matt Trotter

The City of Tulsa is still waiting to learn how much funding it will receive from the American Rescue Plan.

The $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden nearly two weeks ago. Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday he feels a "heavy burden" to ensure the money Tulsa does get is spent responsibly because of what the package will add to the national debt.

"I want to make sure that Tulsa does not end up on some list of boondoggles as to how that money Is spent. Because I have a great fear that six months, 18 months, 24 months down the road, there will be examples of that out there," Bynum said.

Bynum said he does not want any of the new federal funding spent in ways that will leave the city with increased operational costs, noting he and the city council have gone through a difficult budgeting process the past two years. Many city employees took furloughs and missed out on pay raises last year to help the city cover a projected $13 million budget shortfall.

"Unlike apparently other cities out there, we don't need to be bailed out by anybody. Our budget is balanced, but if there are things that we can be doing to help our neighbors through such a challenging time, then we're going to evaluate what those things might be and try to utilize these funds in the most prudent way possible," Bynuym said.

Additional help for people behind on rent may be needed. According to the city, an Emergency Rental Assistance Program launched March 15 has already received more than 2,600 applications totaling $7 million in requests. The city got around $12 million for the program.

"This is a strong indicator of the continued needs that exist in our community to shore up our economy, to get people back into jobs and to do what we can to avoid evictions here in our community that can lead to far greater problems," Bynum said.

Tulsa County officials learned last week they’re getting $127 million in two equal disbursements, but spending must be approved before funds are released. A congressional committee report estimated the City of  Tulsa would get nearly $90 million.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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