Simplified: Federal relief funds from the 2020 CARES Act reimbursed about $48 million in city costs last year. That's left Sioux Falls with cash to burn, and the city is looking to invest in one-time projects, Finance Director Shawn Pritchett said.

Tell me more.

There's about $22 million available to spend, and as of now, the city has plans to spend about half of that.

"This is a very unique opportunity for the city to have this level of funding available to be able to make these kind of strategic long-term investments for the community," Pritchett said.

Why it matters:

If approved by the City Council, that money would go to fund projects including:

  • Adding new playground equipment, a splash park, a walking loop and a dog park to Hayward Park
  • Bringing a new lion exhibit to the Great Plains Zoo, along with some other improvements
  • Funding an inclusive playground and "ice ring" (essentially a sidewalk you ice skate on) in the proposed Jacobson Plaza at Falls Park
  • Designing the river greenway along a planned development in the Sioux Steel site downtown,
  • And expanding and enhancing streets in areas that are expecting new developments

Wait, where did this money come from?

The federal CARES Act passed by Congress last year provided COVID-19 relief funds for local governments, as distributed by state governments.

Through that, Sioux Falls got $47.7 million, which it spent on costs related to the pandemic (think: staffing related to emergency operations, salaries for police, fire and public health officials, personal protective equipment, etc.)

Those reimbursements then freed up cash to be spent on paying down debts, which the city did last fall.

And there's still money leftover in the bank account. That's the $22 million mentioned above.

How can the city spend COVID-19 relief money on parks?

Technically, the CARES Act money has been spent already. The money we're talking about now is what's been freed up because the CARES Act money covered expenses the city had otherwise budgeted for like salaries.

It's a bit confusing, but it's sort of like if someone else paid for your groceries and then you got to spend the money you would've spent on groceries this month on a new pair of shoes instead.

What happens next?

City Councilors will have to approve each part of this "Phase 1" plan. That's expected to happen next month. And, as one might guess, there's likely to be later phases used to spend the $11 million still unaccounted for.

It's possible that extra money will fund the actual river greenway enhancements once designed, and it's likely it'll go toward more one-time projects that add quality of life or accessibility to Sioux Falls, Pritchett said.