The St. Paul City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to spend more than $5 million of its federal American Rescue Plan money to address what staff described as immediate program and staffing needs.

During an hourlong discussion, council members acknowledged the urgency to distribute funds to the City Attorney's Office, the Police Department, a domestic abuse intervention program and other initiatives.

But many said they would be loath to support similar resolutions in the future, saying St. Paul is not being transparent about how it plans to use its $166 million in COVID-19 assistance, which members have described as a chance to fund major projects or programs that might not otherwise be possible.

"We have an opportunity here to be really planful and strategic about how we spend this money, and this cannot continue to be the way we process these funds," Council Member Jane Prince said.

Peter Leggett, communications director for Mayor Melvin Carter, said in an e-mail that the mayor will issue more details at his budget address next month.

Other Minnesota cities have already announced plans to allocate their portions of the $1.9 trillion federal relief funding. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey released a proposal for spending the first third of his city's $271 million American Rescue Plan dollars in early June, and the Duluth City Council approved a plan to spend its $58 million allotment.

"I am looking forward to working with the administration on a more coherent plan that does make some transformational changes," Council Member Rebecca Noecker said Wednesday.

The City Attorney's Office will receive $2.7 million to hire prosecutors to handle a backlog of criminal cases that built up during the pandemic, and the city's Downtown Alliance will receive $647,843 for its ambassador program.

Other expenditures approved include $250,000 for the nonprofit St. Paul & Ramsey County Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, $200,000 for two temporary employees to repaint road markings, $311,843 for homeless outreach staff and $975,000 for police patrols..

Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478