Jax budget plan makes sure federal COVID relief isn’t lost

Published on July 24, 2023 at 9:35 pm

Nearly $64 million remaining of Jacksonville’s federal COVID money needs to be spent soon or the city will lose the ability to spend the American Rescue Plan and CARES Act funding.

City Chief Financial Officer Mike Weinstein explained the necessity of allocating the funds to his colleagues on the Mayor’s Budget Review Committee at City Hall on Monday.

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“This is an effort to make sure that our dollars don’t revert back to the federal government,” Weinstein said of the roughly $63.6 million balance of federal funds.

The committee voted unanimously to recommend distributing the remaining COVID-19 contingency funding the way the mayor proposes: $15 million to UF Health Jacksonville for indigent health care, $10 million for city employee health care claims, about $13.62 million to implement various initiatives and priorities focused on “infrastructure, health, economic development, public safety, constituency and community outreach, military and veterans, and arts, culture and entertainment” as identified by the mayor’s transition committees, and $25 million for UF Health’s capital improvements to city facilities.

“We are beginning to run out of time to use [the federal COVID relief] money, and this is the distribution that’s literally in the budget that was presented by the mayor last week,” Weinstein said.

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As the budget process continues, the City Council is expected to set the maximum property tax rate on Tuesday evening. That’s the kick-off point for budget negotiations on Mayor Donna Deegan’s $1.7 billion proposal. Deegan is not asking for an increase from the current property tax rate because an increase in home values is expected to cover her proposed hike in spending this coming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1st.

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Casmira Harrison is a Jacksonville Today reporter focusing on local government in Duval County.

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