Minneapolis City Council members continued to consider uses for the city's remaining $43 million of American Rescue Plan funding, unanimously agreeing on more funding for business assistance in cultural districts, culturally specific communications to the East African community and street lights for the Stevens Square neighborhood.
During budget committee Friday, council members chose to direct $700,000 to the Small Business Technical Assistance Program (B-TAP), prioritizing businesses in the city's four cultural districts of Cedar Riverside, East Lake, West Broadway and 38th and Chicago. The money would come from funding initially set aside for Meet Minneapolis, the city's convention and tourism agency.
"While our priority is on these cultural districts, this funding will also support the neighboring businesses of these areas, and if needed, businesses across the city," said Council Member Jason Chavez, who represents East Lake and 38th and Chicago.
While Meet Minneapolis officials had previously gone before the council to request American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding on behalf of the downtown hospitality industry and the convention center's employees — most of whom are Minneapolis residents of color — CEO Melvin Tennant said he supported the motion by council members to redirect the money to B-TAP because they share the goal of uplifting homegrown businesses.
"There's a direct correlation between the marketing dollars that are invested by the city and Meet Minneapolis and tax generation and ... jobs," said Tennant. He specifically noted that the Minneapolis hospitality industry shed 20,000 of 36,000 jobs at the peak of the pandemic and has been fighting to restore them ever since. "We do have a story to tell, but we need the city's continued support and investment in Meet Minneapolis to be able to do that."
Council members also unanimously agreed upon two recommendations by Council Member Jamal Osman. One would divert $50,000 from the human resources to the communications department for engagement with East African media outlets. The second would reserve $150,000 of street-light funding for the Stevens Square-Loring Heights neighborhood specifically.
"Over 18 square blocks, there are only seven street lights working, and that's very unacceptable," Osman said. "Stevens Square is the densest neighborhood in our city. There are few single-family homes if any."
Council Member Robin Wonsley Worlobah proposed moving $200,000 from human resources to the city attorney's office to build a new database for tracking police misconduct considered Brady material — evidence prosecutors must share with defendants because it can be used to impeach officers and help their cases.
A Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, published in April, found that the city's Brady database was outdated and inadequate.
However, Wonsley Worlobah withdrew the motion after IT, budget and legal staff testified that the city was in the process of bringing its database up to date and did not need an additional $200,000 to complete it.
Earlier in the week, the council members agreed on their first slate of four amendments to the mayor's spending proposal, which calls for violence prevention, mental health services, housing, youth recreation and trees.
These include spending $100,000 on a consultant to facilitate public discussions on how the city should redevelop the former Third Precinct police station, which was set on fire after the murder of George Floyd; $160,000 for two mobile mental health responder vans; $125,000 for a pilot program to help small businesses adapt to new labor rules; and $30,000 to encourage businesses to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.
The revised ARPA package will now go to next Thursday's City Council for a final vote.