Coronavirus

Boston councilors form committee focused on how COVID-19 relief cash is spent

Councilor Kenzie Bok said the federal relief funding presents a "once in a generation chance for us to actually show people what it looks like when government steps up to meet a really big challenge."

Boston City Hall Joseph Prezioso / AFP via Getty Images

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As Boston receives over $400 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government, city councilors have opted to create a new committee to pore over the details of and provide opportunity for public input on how the money should be spent.

Councilors on Wednesday unanimously passed a motion submitted by Council President Pro Tempore Matt O’Malley to form the special group, which they say will give residents an up-close look at how the funds will be divvied up.

O’Malley said the committee’s work will “not only elevate the importance of this money, but make sure that we have an opportunity to come together to discuss this, to include community voices to help … make sure that (the funds) are distributed equitably, fairly, and effectively.”

“The purpose of this special committee (for) Boston’s COVID-19 recovery is to help have a central repository where many of these grants will be, going forward,” O’Malley said.

Through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Boston is slated to receive $434 million in federal support. The city, however, stands to collect even more since the legislation also included $156 million for Suffolk County, even though the county dissolved its government over two decades ago, according to the Boston Herald.

State officials say that additional money will be split between the four municipalities that make up the county — Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop — on a per-capita basis.

According to O’Malley, the committee will not replace the responsibilities of the Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees the city’s budgeting process, nor the pandemic-centric work of other committees in previous months.

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Councilor Kenzie Bok, who chairs the Ways and Means committee, said the funding presents a “once in a generation chance for us to actually show people what it looks like when government steps up to meet a really big challenge with really major funds that meet the occasion.”

“It’s incumbent upon us as the sort of local level recipients of that to really, truly highlight and do everything we can to highlight … the fact that that money is being well stewarded, it’s being well spent, it’s resulting in an equitable recovery, and it’s frankly the type of federal policy and policy all the way down that they should continue to support at the ballot box,” Bok said.

Read the motion:

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