After several weeks of confusion, the mayor of Rome has clarified that coins scooped from the famous Trevi Fountain will not be used to pay for city council maintenance projects, but instead will continue to go to Caritas, a Catholic charity that helps Rome’s poor and homeless.
“Caritas and all the thousands of people it helps can rest assured,” Mayor Virginia Raggi told L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 14.
“I personally guarantee that this administration will never take away its contribution. On the issue of the coins, I confirm that they will continue to go to the charity. No one ever considered taking them away.”
Caritas Rome has been the beneficiary of the coins since 2001. Visitors to Rome toss about €1.5 million ($1.7 million) worth of coins into the Trevi Fountain each year, which represents about 15 percent of Caritas’ charitable budget. The funds are mainly used for housing for the homeless, soup kitchens, and parish-based services for struggling families.
Rome’s City Council approved a proposal at the end of Dec. 2018 to use the funds gathered from the fountain for “maintenance of cultural sites and social welfare projects” starting April 1, the Telegraph reports.
An article denouncing the city council’s decision appeared in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference, on Jan. 12. Raggi now says the purpose of the December plan was merely to get an accurate count of the money in the fountains.
Raggi said the city’s utility company, ACEA, will be responsible for cleaning, sorting, and counting the coins under the new plan, a job previously done by Caritas volunteers.
In addition, Raggi announced that coins collected from other fountains in the city would also be given to the charity, to the tune of an extra €200,000.
Under the previous arrangement, ACEA periodically emptied the fountain and presented the coins to Caritas officials in the presence of the police. Caritas volunteers then dried, cleaned, separated by currency, counted and deposited the coins in the bank. Caritas provided a quarterly report to the city of how the funds were used, according to Avvenire.
The city council first proposed using the Trevi Fountain funds for its own purposes in Dec. 2017, but the plan was delayed for a year.
In 2016 the city of Rome had an estimated €14 billion in public debt, and the city council is facing mounting pressure to fix dangerous roads and pavements in the city.