Milwaukee leaders drill officials on ARPA funds, questioning why some are still waiting to receive payments
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds have yet to be distributed in Milwaukee, and on Friday, Sept 8, the people in charge faced tough questions from city leaders.
"Mr. Commissioner, you said a lot, but you didn't say anything," said 11th District Alderman Mark A. Borkowski. "I'm asking about effectiveness, I'm asking about results, I'm asking about us spending money and agencies not getting defensive, and so, what are the results?"
Members of Milwaukee's Public Safety and Health Committee grilled officials Friday.
They wanted to know how the money was spent and why some organizations haven't received payments.
"Are there any other outstanding debts for services already rendered to other organizations, and if so, how many, and how much?" asked District 6 Ald. Milele Coggs, facing Aaron Szopinski, Milwaukee's health department administration manager.
"I can go back to my team, we'll have to confirm with OVP, you know, typically invoices for services will come to them and we can assess that and get it tallied to you and the committee members," he responded.
Coggs kept asking for details.
"There's an assumption in your statement that people have been paid...is there any outstanding debt to MCW that has yet to be paid as we speak?" Coggs asked.
"I'm glad to answer that, to my knowledge, and I can check with my staff when I get back. We do not owe MCW on any payments, I believe we have finished the last payment submitted for work done," answered Szopinski.
Ald. Coggs expressed her disappointment with the little-to-no information they received.
"I really want to get to the bottom of what's going on because it's a lot that I'm hearing, and so I would like to have the facts from you all," Coggs said.
Szopinski said that Medical College of Wisconsin's longest wait for a payment was between six to nine months.
"Establishing the contracts and sort of legal basis that we needed to pay them was something they took longer than we all would've liked, but as I said before, we're caught up, we're in a good place with them and we're ready to move forward into the 23 and 24," he added.
The Office of Violence Prevention received more than $12 million in ARPA funds.
As of Thursday, the ARPA director said there's about $10 million left untouched.
Director Ashanti Hamilton faced questions over how the office is using the money.
"Part of that process has been why this engagement has been so heavily scrutinized internally, and at the same time, attempting to try to keep the airplane in the air while fixing on it while it's flying," Hamilton said. "And at the same time, you can see us pushing to actually get resources out the door because we do feel like we've fixed some of those things and attempted to be more accountable with the way that we can share information about where resources are going."
Szopinsk said it's a slow process they are hoping will be easier and faster in the future.
"So, we're moving them as fast as we can; luckily our partners are all both patient, flexible and working with us in mutual good faith to get the work done, knowing that they will get paid," he said.