BLOOMINGTON — Small businesses, nonprofits and affordable housing could see a $13 million cut in federal COVID relief funds under proposals being explored by Bloomington city leaders.
At Monday’s council meeting, Bloomington Economic and Community Development Director Melissa Hon and Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus presented an economic development program and two socio-economic programs that could be supported by the funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
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“I don’t think it should be assumed that city funding is the only funding for some of the proposed projects,” Tyus said. “I think in many cases we want to make sure that they are sustainable and that there is funding from other sources in addition to any city funding that has been provided.”
The American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, was a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package passed in 2021 to help individuals and all levels of government recover from the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. . Funds must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026.
The City of Bloomington received approximately $13.4 million from these funds.
In July, the council approved a framework for spending the money, agreeing to use $2.2 million for economic development projects, about $2.2 million for socio-economic opportunities and $9 million for infrastructure works.
As of Monday, the city had about $1.4 million remaining in ARPA funding for economic development, about $2 million for socioeconomic opportunities and about $7 million for infrastructure.
Although the resolution established how the city would like to spend its ARPA funding, the council must vote on appropriate funding for each individual project.
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The economic development program introduced on Monday would provide rehabilitation grants to eligible small businesses. Some of the proposed uses could be code compliance projects, signage or awnings.
“We’re really looking at how we can have a lasting impact and enabling these businesses to make these improvements to their buildings that we think would be a great way to do that,” Hon said.
Hon said the grants would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
The first proposed socio-economic program would support local nonprofits working to meet needs identified in the city’s consolidated plan and a recent community health survey.
This could include homeless services, job training for workforce development, child care services, disability services, or health services focused on health disparities mental.
Hon said eligible nonprofits could receive up to $150,000.
The second proposed socio-economic program would focus on preserving affordable housing, particularly on the west side of the community. Once limits are established, homeowners could apply for grants to fund accessibility improvements, roof repairs or other qualifying uses.
“Our thinking was right, we (would award these grants) through a lottery system,” Tyus said. “We’re not married to this, but the idea was to do it through a lottery.”
Several board members expressed concerns about the money being used for efforts that could be covered by other sources of revenue, such as federal Community Development Block Grant funding.
“To me, the ARPA money was meant to be used for special things that we wouldn’t necessarily spend,” Alderman Jeff Crabill said, “so I don’t want us to use the money for things that perhaps we should fund from our general budget or other available grants.”
Tyus said the next step would be for city staff to come back for approval of individual programs at a later date.
No infrastructure program was included in the presentation, but city officials previously detailed several potential uses for the money.
These include the combination of two design phases for the Locust Street and Colton Avenue Combined Sewer Overflow Elimination Project and Water Main Replacement, as well as construction works. asphalt and concrete for the 2022 and 2023 construction seasons.
City manager contract
In other business, the board approved an amendment to Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason’s contract, giving him a 3.5% salary increase retroactive to July 23.
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said he was the only current elected official involved in hiring Gleason four years ago, and he still thinks it was one of the most impactful decisions he has made. have taken.
“Among the highlights of his performance, the council noted the excellent financial management of the city,” said Mwilambwe. “We’ve made significant development deals in some areas that have been, I would say, a pain point for the city for a long time.”