City councilors approved on Wednesday more than $2 million in spending from Tulsa’s allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds from the state.
The bulk of the spending approved, $1.5 million, goes to support city efforts to help people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. That includes things like funding operations at the old juvenile justice center that’s been repurposed as a shelter and continuing to pay for hotel rooms for people who need to quarantine. Those are usually paid for out of other federal funds.
"And that funding has since run low. Without additional funding, these facilities would be forced to close imminently," said City Senior Policy Advisor Clay Holk.
Another $110,000 will go toward a school support program offered at park recreation centers.
"This provides sort of that pod-type environment in which a small group of kids would be located with a single teacher, or worker in this case, helping them to get logged on and then would provide some limited daycare options as well," Holk said.
Plans call for 120 spots in the program for elementary-aged kids across five parks.
Originally, $4.9 million in spending was on the council agenda, but a worker retraining program and a business incubator based out of city hall were pulled over concerns they wouldn’t help enough people. Councilor Lori Decter Wright said there are many existing businesses that need help with the basics during the pandemic.
"A lot these small businesses do not have a way to get online effectively. They need coaching, they need assistance, and they need to have that assistance co-located where they’re already operating," Decter Wright said.
After this round of spending, the city has more than $22 million left. Holk said there’s a strategy in place.
"We do see large, subsequent uses coming down the pike, whether it is facility safety modifications, the continuation of homelessness assistance or the redeployment of Vision Tulsa funds," Holk said.
Last month, the state awarded the City of Tulsa $30.9 million out of its $1.2 billion share of federal coronavirus funds. The city committed $5.6 million to a Tulsa Public Schools program to give an estimated 22,000 families internet access to help kids learning from home.