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St. Pete announces allocations for $45 million in American Rescue Plan funding

Mark Parker

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After three weeks of anticipation and debate among local officials and residents, the City of St. Petersburg has released the results of how the $45 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds get distributed.

During the last week of July, Mayor Rick Kriseman and the St. Pete city administration held three community workshops to gather public input on what projects should receive the $45 million in federal funds. The rankings and suggested allocation of resources were unveiled at Thursday’s city council meeting.

During the workshops, presentations were given on areas of impact that were eligible to receive funding under strict guidance by the Treasury Department. Eligible areas were broken into five groups: Economic Recovery/Resilience, Health and Social Equity, Housing Affordability and Support, Infrastructure, and Public Health/Safety. Residents were asked to rank the areas of impact in order of importance, and online forms were available to those who could not attend the meetings.

Residents ranked the areas on a 1-5 scale, with one being the best score and five the lowest. Assistant City Administrator Tom Greene remarked that the system was “somewhat counterintuitive.”

Based on a weighted average score, Housing Affordability and Support came out on top with a score of 2.25. Health and Social Equity were second at 2.66, Infrastructure was third with a 2.82, and Economic Recovery/ Resilience and Public Health/Safety rounded out the bottom with a 3.41 and a 3.86, respectively.

Each of the five areas of impact was listed as having the “potential” for $1 million in Community Driven Grants. Greene said this is “more of a starting point,” as some categories could end up with more and some with less. The remaining $40,413,871 was listed as City Driven Investments, and that money was allocated according to ranking. Housing Affordability/Support received $15.1 million, Health and Social Equity received $12.1 million, and Public Health/Safety received the least at a little over $3 million.

Although affordable housing is slated to receive the most ARPA dollars, many would like to see even more funding go to the housing crisis. Councilmember Brandi Gabbard suggested the $3 million slated for Public Health/Safety – which covers things like new ionization machines in public buildings – could be better spent addressing affordable housing.

“That’s another $3 million that could go to housing and health equity – these issues that were ranked so high,” said Gabbard. “If it were up to me, we would be doing a lot more with this money, specifically towards housing.”

Gabbard said she would also be interested to see exactly where the $5 million in community-driven grants would be going, as this could be used for the most pressing issues. She added that money for infrastructure could come from other federal and local sources – and if ARPA money is used on infrastructure, it “should at least be specific to issues on affordability, for housing.”

Councilmember Amy Foster said it should come as no surprise that she also supports more investment in housing. She recalled the many members of the public who spoke Thursday on the urgency they face when it comes to affording a place to live. Out of all the impact areas, she believes the one that could be the most transformational and equitable is housing.

“Housing is where all opportunity starts,” said Foster. “Health, equity, education, jobs – all of that depends on having a place to lay your head at night.”

Councilmember Gina Driscoll said she is “very much” in favor of putting even more money into housing and wants to do more for people that have a place to live but are in danger of losing it, whether they are behind on their mortgage or their rent. She said if the city could help ease that worry, it would also benefit residents’ mental and physical health. She added this could be an area that could have an immediate impact.

“Several people today said, ‘We need help now,’” said Gabbard. “I’m trying to think of some of those ‘right now’ things.”

Councilmember Darden Rice said that “one-time sources of money should be used on one-time expenses” and asked if these funds were going towards recurring investments. Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said city administration realized the budget will not grow by $45 million, and “we will be very disciplined about making recommendations of one-time use for one-time funds.”

The $45,413,871 in ARPA funding is released to the city in two equal installments, one this summer and one next summer. Resources must be invested by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.

Tomalin said she expects the city to release the initial round of funding in six to eight weeks.

 

 

 

 

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    Rose Hayes

    August 22, 2021at4:34 pm

    I sure hope that Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign gets some of that Health and Social Equity funds.

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