In the news

Proposed Action on ARPA Funds

September 6, 2021

Dear Constituent:

Tomorrow evening, the Columbia City Council will discuss (and potentially decide) what to do with $25 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. According to the U.S. Treasury, the purpose of this program is to "deliver immediate economic relief to families" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you — if you were one of the many constituents who responded to my June newsletter by providing input on this decision and the process we should use. Through constituent communications, public testimony at City Council meetings, and numerous one-on-one and small-group conversations, I have heard one very clear message – that these funds should be invested in people, not projects.

Therefore, my proposal tomorrow will be to place all $25 million in a fund account restricted to the following general areas:

  • Public health COVID response (such as the contact tracing positions necessary to stay on top of the Delta variant)
  • Homelessness services and transitional housing (such as the Opportunity Campus concept developed by local non-profits)
  • Affordable housing, energy efficiency, and rental/utility assistance (such as completing renovation of Columbia Housing Authority's homes, and support for the Community Land Trust)
  • Workforce development and childcare services (such as training in high-tech manufacturing skills, and a "maker space" for entrepreneurs)
  • Behavioral health services for uninsured individuals (such as a 24/7 Crisis Center like the one established recently in Springfield, MO)
  • Violence prevention programs (such as those recommended by the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence)

Additionally, according to public input, we need to amplify the stories of those most impacted by the trauma of economic inequality and the ravages of the virus, and City Council should not rush to a final decision without further consultation. With that in mind, I propose that we ask our senior professional staff in the Health, Human Services, and Housing Departments to collaborate on the following tasks:

  • Review federal guidelines, relevant City plans/policies, and public testimony received so far
  • Develop an equitable process for gathering further community input (potentially including a MAPP consultant and public engagement/convenings with social service orgs., African-American community leaders, "People Before Projects" group, etc.)
  • Send specific funding recommendations to the Board of Health, Human Services Commission, and Housing/Community Development Commission (official advisors on City policy) for further feedback
  • Send final recommendations to City Council

There will be a public hearing during tomorrow's Council meeting (7pm at City Hall) before any decisions are made. Please make sure your voice is heard by attending the meeting or emailing your Council member.

Cheers, Ian