Peoria city council votes to use some of its COVID-19 relief money to avoid borrowing, end furloughs for city workers

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, city leaders followed through on last week’s policy session regarding how to spend a portion of its federal aid.

The council unanimously voted to spend $10 million of its $47 million Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to avoid borrowing the same amount to help balance the city’s budget. City manager Patrick Urich said using the funds this way means the city won’t have to take out a loan, as initially planned, and pay off its interest over time.

Council members also voted to use $301,685, instead of the originally projected $180,000, to end furloughs for non-union employees for the next six months. The workers who took one unpaid day off a month will be also reimbursed for those days going back to March 3.

Last Tuesday, city manager Patrick Urich gave a presentation on ways the city can spend the money made possible by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

He said the money can be used include: to support public health response, to address negative economic impacts, to replace public sector revenue loss, for premium pay for essential workers, for water and sewer infrastructure, and broadband infrastructure.

He said the money can not be used for changes that reduce net tax revenue, extraordinary payments into a pension fund, rainy day funds, legal settlements, and debt service.

Tuesday’s council meeting only lasted about an hour as the council went into executive session, around 7:15 p.m., to discuss who would fill the At-Large council seat left vacant by now mayor — Dr. Rita Ali.

Council members separately interviewed the three finalists James Kemper, architect, Kim Armstrong, marketing and sales executive, and Dr. Kiran Velpula, assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

City officials said each finalist was allotted 30 minutes for their complete interview. WMBD spoke with each finalist on what they would bring to the table if selected.

“One of the things that I would like to do is to market Peoria bigger,” Kemper said. “I believe that we have incredible attributes in Peoria and I believe that the rest of the nation needs to know that.”

“We have the opportunity to use the funds that were provided to us to help provide some support that’s desperately needed,” Armstrong said. “I think the need for collaboration is great and hopefully I would bring that view to the council.”

“Over 186 years, Peoria has been building the powerful healthcare system, and now is the time for us to utilize that and revitalize Peoria,” Velpula said.

Mayor Ali said if a decision is reached it wouldn’t be revealed until the council resumes open sessions. She said they have until July 3 to fill the vacant seat.

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