PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria City Council is looking at ways to move the city forward with a little help from the federal government.
The city is expected to receive $47 million in Local Fiscal Recovery Funds over the next two years. The money is made possible by the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
“This may be the first time in my 20 years in Peoria that I can remember where we have this kind of funding coming from in from the federal government to be able to spend,” Patrick Urich, city manager, said.
Last week, the city received the first $23.5 million portion and held a special meeting Tuesday night at the Peoria Riverfront Museum to discuss how the entire $47 million should be spent. Urich gave a presentation where he first discussed where the money can and can’t go.
Areas 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.
Urich suggested the city use $10 million to avoid borrowing that same amount in bonds to balance the city’s budget and use an additional $180,000 to end furloughs for non-union employees for the next six months.
These two suggestions were immediately supported by councilmembers Zach Oyler, Denis Cyr, Beth Jensen, Sid Ruckriegel, and Tim Riggenbach with the proposition to bring the subject back at the council’s next meeting.
Each council member then asked questions and gave suggestions on where they’d like to see the funds go.
“Many of our neighborhood groups whether it’s PCCEO or EBNHC in the East Bluff, I know these groups have been helping people in particular since the Rental Assistance money has become available,” Tim Riggenbach, Third District Councilman, said. “Organizations that are doing great things in the neighborhoods and often times are overlooked, so if there’s some way to help them out as well.”
“I would be interested if staff could reach out to the chamber and or the EDC to get a good assessment of how the business community has been negatively impacted,” Denise Jackson, First District Councilwoman, said.
“I think that we need to look at our staffing and make sure that our staffing that’s been affected by the pandemic is back to the appropriate level based off of the funds that are allocated, “Andre Allen, Fourth District Councilman, said.
“Public safety should be number one and the safety of people who are not able to take care of themselves,” Chuck Grayeb, Second District Councilman, said.
Councilmembers Ruckriegel and Jensen respectively asked if the money can be used for housing rehabilitation and the city’s combined sewer overflow project. Jensen also suggested having public meetings and giving surveys to allow the public input on how the funds should be spent.
Urich also mentioned leveraging other federal grant opportunities with local entities and advised the council to take its time and strategically plan the best way to utilize these funds.
“I think that this is a unique situation and it means that we’ve got time to really deliberate and think about how best to spend these dollars and maximize the impact of it,” Urich said.
All the funds have to be obligated by until Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31 2026.