COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Columbus City Council has approved the city’s $970 million operating budget, including funding for COVID-19 relief and police reform.

“We believe this budget supports the needs of our community and advances the work to address systemic racism,” said President Pro Tempore and Finance Chair Elizabeth Brown. “The pandemic underscored serious issues facing our city when it comes to equity and justice, and we are eager to solve them.”

Among expenditures in the budget are $10 million to the city’s Reimagining Public Safety effort, $36 million to help residents with housing including eviction prevention, and $10 million toward the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Council President Shannon Hardin said part of the public safety effort will include expanding the Mobile Crisis Response initiative and alternative mental health services and referrals instead of jail time.

“My top priority is the establishment of an alternative crisis response operation,” Hardin said. “For too long, we’ve asked police officers to handle every situation, from mental health crises to violent crime. This new vision for crisis response aims to give residents the care they need, when they need it.”

In addition to eviction prevention, the $36 million allocated toward housing includes tenants’ rights, fighting housing discrimination, and funding a director-level position to focus on the city’s affordable housing strategy.

Hardin said the $10 million allocated to COVID-19 relief will help ensure every resident who wants a COVID-19 vaccine receives one.