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Milwaukee Mayor Barrett Recommends Using More Than 25% Of Federal Rescue Dollars To Cover Lost Revenue

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Mayor Tom Barrett speaking to the Finance & Personnel Committee Thursday.

Environmentalists and others had hoped Milwaukee leaders would give green jobs the green light on Thursday, by committing federal funds to fuel recruitment and training in the green jobs sector.

READ Building Buy-In For Green Jobs Seen As Path To Climate Resilience And Racial Equity In Milwaukee

But their wish did not come true, as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett outlined his priorities for spending $197 million in its first installment of American Rescue Plan funding. Barrett spoke during a meeting of the Finance & Personnel Committee.

"The plan that I am hoping to advance would put a lion’s share of the money we have at our disposal to spend in housing, either directly in housing, or certainly in the lead paint remediation. There is a will of the Council, of the community, of my administration that that’s where the major spending should occur,” Barrett said.

Barrett appeared to surprise everyone when he advised investing a portion to address lost revenue that the city suffered as a result of the COVIC-19 pandemic.

Barrett said that amounts to up to $55 million in 2020 alone.

“So I believe the most responsible thing for us to do is right off the top take the $54 million, $55 million in lost revenue,” Barrett said.

Barrett said using some of the relief funds to offset lost revenue will help the city avoid service cuts and layoffs.

The mayor suggested when Milwaukee receives its second American Rescue Plan check, that another $55 million be used to compensate for revenue lost this year.

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Committee chair Alderman Michael Murphy acknowledged the extent of lost revenue due to COVID-19 was likely news to many city residents. The common council will be grappling with the shortfall in the city's 2022 budget.

Committee members seemed to be processing the mayor’s message as chair Alderman Michael Murphy said, “Today is really the first day that it’s been articulated as to the revenue loss and what that exactly means for the City of Milwaukee,” Murphy added, “and it may be a fairly significant surprise to the people in the community that that much money would be allocated out of the American Recovery Act.”

Murphy said the Common Council needs time to decide its next move.

Council members will weigh in on and could amend Barrett’s budget proposal.

“And it is a decision – it’s not an automatic that that type of money is put into the revenue loss of the City, but if it is not, then the Council during its budget deliberations will have to make choices about eliminating services or laying off individuals,” Murphy said.

In the coming months, the Finance & Personnel Committee will act on the mayor’s proposed 2022 budget, then the full Council will vote on it this fall.

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