Davis City Council Approves Allocation of Remaining ARPA Funds to Arts and Downtown Davis Businesses Among Others

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front



By Melanie Johnson


DAVIS, CA – Last Tuesday night, the Davis City Council discussed the allocation of remaining uncommitted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding provided by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


The recommended allocation plan presented to the council was created through a subcommittee consisting of Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs and councilmember Will Arnold, who were responsible for acquiring potential projects and responding to expressed need in the Davis community. 


The council voted unanimously to approve their recommendations and allocate the remaining 12 million dollars of funding to the Davis Arts Alliance, downtown Davis businesses, and other general uses including critical city services, social services, COVID-19 prevention, and economic assistance to local organizations. 


Introducing the proposed funding plan, Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz explained to the council that these funds must be “obligated” by December 2024 and “spent completely” by 2026.


She reinforced the need for timely action, stating that “if we don’t encumber funds, with intent to use them and plan to use them, before 2024, at that point the Department of Treasury could come in and say, ‘You had your chance, you didn’t spend these dollars. We’ll take them back, thank you.’” 


Councilmember Will Arnold echoed this sense of urgency in reminding the council that “the ‘R’ in ARPA stands for ‘Rescue,’” adding that the businesses and organizations that have requested funds “could have been helped a year ago or two years ago. The need was there, almost two years ago to the day of when we really entered the pandemic in earnest.”


Mayor Gloria Partida prefaced the council’s discussion by relating the immensity of the task undertaken by the subcommittee.


She stated that “I can only imagine how difficult this process was. I’m sure that there were…many people that reached out and many worthy endeavors that you wanted to consider.”


Many public commenters expressed emphatic support of the proposed funding plan and brought attention to the variety of organizations that would benefit from receipt of this aid. 


One of these organizations is Yolo Crisis Nursery, which serves vulnerable children in the Davis community by providing “trauma-informed care and wraparound services to families in crisis.”


Child psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at UC Davis, Dr. Stewart Teal, was one of many public commenters who advocated for the Crisis Nursery, which is seeking ARP funds to grow their facility. 


He explained, “The Yolo Crisis Nursery provides a safe haven for children zero to five. Research clearly shows these are the most crucial years of human development.”


Teal affirmed that the “nurturing and care” provided by the Yolo Crisis Nursery is much needed, and that funding of its expansion is “where our money and resources will give us the best return on our investment by far.”


Multiple public commenters also expressed support for local arts funding to be administered through Arts Alliance Davis


Dr. Sarah Marsh Krauter, company dramaturge with Bike City Theatre Company, highlighted the local art community’s “struggle with lower attendance, depleted reserves, and decreased operating budgets” since the pandemic and urged the council to “fund this request in full as it is supporting many organizations and local artists who contribute to the economic and social vibrancy of our city.”


During the council deliberation, Mayor Partida emphasized her desire that the council ensure these funds be distributed equitably amongst all subgroups brought forward. 


She encouraged the council to consider “people who don’t have as much agency around seeking these funds,” and ensure “that they are assisted and that there is some sort of outreach or…assistance with…agencies that don’t have the connections and the ability to apply for these funds.”


Councilmember Dan Carson also offered the creation of a reserve fund as a necessary modification to the presented plan. 


He argued, “Once you’ve written that check, it’s very hard to take that money back, and that’s really the argument for reserve in very, incredibly uncertain times.” 


Carson referenced the country’s present economic uncertainty with regard to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and warned that something like a “Moscow oil embargo” could result in an unexpected recession. He explained how under these circumstances, the lack of reserve funds could compromise “the basic services that this city delivers.” 


Mayor Partida expressed her support for Carson’s reserve plan and added that “What makes me a little nervous about not having a reserve…[is] that we’ve never been at this juncture. This is kind of a historic place for us to be…there are a ton of ideas that are being generated…and also maybe problems that we will encounter that we’ve never encountered before.”


She further stated, “If something fabulous shows up in a year from now or we start seeing that there were all of these other great ideas that came out that we were not able to participate in, it just makes me a little nervous not to have a little bit of something [leftover].”


Councilmember Arnold showed recognition of the value of both “a rainy-day fund…in case something goes sideways” and a reserve for “ideas that either currently exist or may exist in the future that may be worthy of funding.” 


However, he also clarified that “there are some reserves already baked into this” such as COVID prevention funds, and maintained that these ARPA funds may not be the best source of a reserve.


Arnold stated, “I also have my concerns that there may end up being a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’” type of situation, adding that “if we hold back on some projects and fund them in another way, the only thing we’re doing is trading less restricted funds for more restricted funds that have to be spent for some specific purposes and have to be spent within a very tight time frame.”


He concluded, “We may as well spend encumbered funds and have the reserve be general funds that we can spend any way we want, more or less.” 


Vice Mayor Frerichs expressed similar resistance to the creation of a reserve, reiterating Arnold’s sentiment that the ARP funds are meant primarily for immediate relief. 


He stated, “I’m not sure that we want to wait for a couple years to come up with a ‘next best’ idea.”


However, he added that there are some items that could be more easily postponed than others, and “if the will of the council is to go in a direction of having some reserve, there is a way to do it.”


Following additional deliberation, the council agreed to incorporate a reserve fund into the proposed ARPA funding plan and unanimously approved it. 


About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

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