Council committee OKs proposal tracking federal pandemic relief spending

Spend-tracking commitments from Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration might soon become law.

The City-County Council’s Administration and Finance Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved bipartisan legislation requiring quarterly and annual reports on the use of Indianapolis’ $419 million federal American Rescue Plan allotment. The measure will head to the full council for consideration in March.

Councilors in September appropriated the first $206.3 million of the funds, but didn’t require spending and effectiveness check-ins.

Hogsett’s administration has to comply with U.S. Treasury reporting guidelines, “but there’s nothing that requires them to report back to us, the financial arm of the city, to say, ‘Here’s how things are going, here’s how we’re spending the money’ and bring transparency,” said the proposal’s author, Republican Michael-Paul Hart.

Proposal 58 is a rare Republican-led initiative to gain traction in a legislative body with a 20-5 Democratic supermajority. It would require departments and agencies running American Rescue Plan-funded programs to present quarterly reports on their efforts to assigned committees, at a chair’s discretion It would also mandate annual overall updates in front of the full council.

The legislation had strong bipartisan support.

While fellow Republican Josh Bain is one co-sponsor, the proposal’s other two are Democrats Dan Boots and John Barth. Hart also noted he’d gotten support from the mayor’s office.

“In my opinion, this [money] is a historic opportunity—once in our lifetimes—and with that comes historic responsibility,” Boots told councilors.

Hogsett’s administration had already committed to completing Treasury-style quarterly reports and annual progress updates on American Rescue Plan-funded projects—like Hogsett’s three-year, $150 million anti-crime plan.

Hart’s proposal would simply formalize that agreement.

“This proposal, in our minds, establishes a local framework that is aligned to those commitments,” said Mackenzie Higgins, Hogsett’s director of government affairs. “I’m here to reiterate our continued commitment to work in partnership with you all to update you regularly and consistently.”

Hart has said he hopes the legislation would help councilors identify successful initiatives to scale up or work into the city’s regular budget, and recognize which efforts were less effective.

The proposal is also part of a larger effort to track city spending. Hart said he aims to use it as a pilot for an interactive dashboard featuring information on all city expenditures, which could eventually replace the city’s lengthy budget books.

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