WGRZ: "Organizations file complaint over City of Buffalo's handling of American Rescue Plan funds"

Date: July 24, 2023

Sara Dingmann | July 24, 2023

Local organizations gathered on Monday to announce the filing of a complaint against the City of Buffalo's handling of American Rescue Plan funding.

The Partnership for the Public Good held a press conference to ask the Common Council to table a vote on allocating $60 million in American Rescue Plan funding to revenue replacement. The vote is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, the last session before the August recess. 

At the press conference, Executive Director at the Partnership for the Public Good Andrea Ó Súilleabháin pointed to a few of the issues the Partnership for the Public Good found with the city's handling of the funds, including violations of procurement rules, lack of explanation on the revenue replacement, and what they view as inappropriate use of the funds.

“There are specific lines of revenue replacement, and we aren’t contesting those. A specific line, right? There is a need in the fire department, revenue was lost during COVID and we are filling that. There is a need in, say, youth services, we are filling that. This is revenue general replacement, where it is basically going into the black hole of the general fund and we’re not being told, ‘These are the specific gaps we are filling.’ We are not being told where it goes,” Ó Súilleabháin said.

Ó Súilleabháin also explained at the press conference how several organizations have reported "highly inappropriate" comments during application interviews and conversations with City staff. This included comments about who would and wouldn't be getting funding.

“Representatives from the WNY Women’s Foundation and our partner, Harvest House, were deeply disturbed by the City’s ARPA grant and interview process delays and lack of transparency in relation to releasing critical funds to assist Buffalo residents post-COVID. Our proposal was focused on strengthening the lives of women and children in poverty living primarily on the City’s East Side. Fifty-four percent of Buffalo’s families living in poverty are headed by single mothers. Our proven initiative provides a holistic framework that offers a paid education pipeline from education to employment. During the formal interview process, our work was not respected and worse, dismissed, when one of the panelists on the formal interview committee stated that what we proposed was “just fixing broken women” and that our work should not be compensated because of our women-centered mission. Buffalo’s families deserve better than this,” Sheri Scavone of CEO of the WNY Women's Foundation said. 

The complaint is calling for the Department of the Treasury Inspector General, Congressman Brian Higgins, and Senator Chuck Schumer to investigate the rund distribution process in the city. 

Watch WGRZ's media for this article and read it on their website, here.