Springfield City Council Committee Makes First Recommendation on How to Spend Part of $ 40 Million in Federal Pandemic Relief Funding

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – This week, the Springfield City Council’s American Rescue Plan Act committee met to review the results of a community survey that will help them determine how to allocate the $ 40 million available in the city.

For now, this is at least a one-off giveaway from the federal government with general guidelines on how the money can be used, but the committee has already made its first recommendation and many more to come.

“This is our only chance to do it, so we have to make sure we get it right,” said Springfield Pro Mayor Tem Matt Simpson, who chairs the ARPA committee.

The process began with public comments in the form of questionnaires sent to 5,000 randomly selected households in the fall.

The funding categories ranked in order of importance are:

  • Public safety and crime prevention (55%)
  • Homelessness and housing services (40%)
  • Community health and wellness (37%)
  • Bonuses paid to essential workers (36%)
  • Stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods (29%)
  • Quality of life (29%)
  • Economic recovery and growth (24%)
  • Preservation and enhancement of public facilities (22%).

In Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the survey, Cora Scott, Springfield’s director of public information and civic engagement, explained that the categories were already set on the questionnaire and it was up to respondents to give their opinion by ranking their importance.

Each category in the questionnaire also included an explanation of what that category covered.

Public safety and crime prevention were given top priority by a 55% to 40% margin over homeless services and housing.

“Public safety and crime prevention have been defined as investments in public safety programs, facilities and equipment,” Scott explained. “Also to support crime prevention initiatives and police response, including better enforcement of the code. “

But with difficulties in hiring and retaining workers who provide safety and crime prevention, the committee decided its first recommendation would be to provide incentive payments to all police, fire and health officers on time. full of town to encourage them to stay at work. .

“They have been on the front lines of the pandemic and it is something that we felt as an immediate need,” said Simpson. “We’re structuring it so that we have three-year retention payments totaling $ 6,000 so that we can keep these people and continue the great job they are doing.”

This recommendation, which will take a rough estimate of $ 5-6 million out of the $ 40 million total, will soon be assessed by the full board, with the $ 6,000 per person over three years potentially becoming available in early 2022. .

So what about the rest of the money and all those other priority areas mentioned in the public inquiry?

Simpson says that in the coming months, the committee will develop a comprehensive plan that will encompass the rest of the recommendations, including homelessness and housing services, community health and neighborhood revitalization.

“It’s kind of a fundamental thing,” Simpson said of dealing with the retention money first. “First we have to make sure we have the people there to provide a safe community, and then we can work on all these other issues.”

And when it comes to making those tough decisions, Simpson said there’s a lot to analyze, but one primary consideration the committee tries to keep in mind.

“This is the number of people affected per dollar spent,” he said. “We need to use this money in a way that will not only make a difference now, but that will make a difference for years or decades to come.”

The committee will also coordinate its efforts with county and state governments that also have their pandemic relief funds. The Springfield committee is made up of Simpson, Councilors Andy Lear and Abe McGull, and Councilor Heather Hardinger. For more information and all committee documents, visit springfieldmo.gov/ARPA.

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