Baltimore officials say they will not use federal stimulus funds for a rally to raise awareness of infant mortality after determining such spending would not be appropriate. Officials are seeking private donations for the event.
The decision came after The Baltimore Sun reported that the city planned to spend $17,828.50 in federal money on food and party rentals for a "Fit Family Festival & Rally for Healthy Babies" scheduled for Saturday in Clifton Park.
The party, sponsored by the city health department, is expected to cost a total of $40,000, and all of those funds were to have come from the city's share of stimulus grants. The event is expected to draw a crowd of 500, and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is scheduled to speak at it.
Deputy Mayor Andrew B. Frank said that Dixon has asked the health department to "review the costs" of the event in light of current budget challenges.
The department had planned to spend city money for the event, and then obtain federal reimbursement - a procedure prohibited by federal rules, Frank said.
Frank noted that the rules for spending stimulus funds "can be complicated." Dixon has created an interagency task force, called the Baltimore Economic Recovery Team, which reviews and oversees stimulus spending. This expenditure was never brought to the attention of that group.
The leaders of that group "believe that the expenses are not an appropriate use of stimulus funds," Frank said.
"This one fell through the cracks," Frank said. "We're reviewing our procedures to ensure that it doesn't happen again."
The deputy mayor said that he is "confident" private money could be found. Also sponsoring the event is Healthy Start, a quasi-public organization focused on reducing infant mortality; and Jewel House, a nonprofit that provides services for pregnant women and babies, Frank said.