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Pridgen: Buffalo Common Council must approve federal American Rescue Plan spending

'At the end of the day, this is not about a group. This is about a process,' Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen said during a meeting on Thursday night.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — During the last few weeks, the American Rescue Plan funds -- and where they will go -- has been a major discussion point.

The Buffalo Common Council held a virtual public meeting for people to share their ideas on Thursday night.

Council members not only listened to community feedback but also shared some information on what this money can go toward.

The ideas brought forward covered a wide range of topics such as addressing poverty and crime, expanding the water amnesty program, and funding the arts.

"If properly allocated, these funds can be monumental to not only lift up the neighborhoods post-COVID-19, but also setting a path forward to rebuild back better than what they once were," council member Mitch Nowakowski said.

However, during that meeting, council president Darius Pridgen reiterated that the funds cannot be spent until they first come through the Common Council, which he said hasn't been the case with some recent announcements. 

"This is not a Santa Claus bag where one person or two people get the bag and get to make promises to groups without going through the process. You may do that at Christmas at your house, but this is the people's house," Pridgen said. 

Pridgen called out recent news conferences, including one earlier this week regarding $5 million to anti-violence groups.

"What this council has not authorized to this minute is $5 million or $500. This council has not authorized, and although I was at the press conference about amnesty, at the end of the day, we still need a plan so that my colleagues can look at it and see if they agree," Pridgen said.

He added the council has only voted on two items when it comes to the allocation of American Rescue Plan funds.

Pridgen explained, "I want to be clear, we have done nothing except employ youth and buy some needed equipment for the fire department. Any other announcement, any other press conference, was just that, a press conference." 

Statement from Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown: 

"With Congressman Higgins, Clergy, violence prevention organizations and representatives from our region's trauma center we announced a violence prevention and intervention initiative. This proposal will be presented to the Council as part of our overall recommended budget submission for spending Buffalo's American Rescue Plan funds. 

I'm pleased the Council held this evening meeting to generate additional public input and for directing residents to the Buffalo Transformation Fund website and 311 to share their recommendations. We have now received almost 200 comments."

Statement from Congressman Brian Higgins:

“I voted for the American Rescue Plan delivering $331 million in federal funding to the City of Buffalo because there was an urgent need to get communities the help needed. The wave of violent crime in Buffalo is tearing apart families and terrorizing neighborhoods. Community Violence Intervention programs are an eligible use of this federal funding and swift action is clearly necessary to save lives. We understand there is a legislative process but at all levels of government proposals are often outlined publicly before final approval.  We look forward to working with the City Council to further implement the federal funding delivered through the American Rescue Plan.”

To share your input on how the American Rescue Plan funds should be used in the City of Buffalo, click here.


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