“Invest in the communities that need it most”: The road to building a plan for $25 million in federal COVID-19 grant money

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA)– Dozens came out to see what the City of Champaign plans to do with $25 million dollars in American Rescue Plan grant money.

There were a couple of themes amongst almost a dozen speakers: Invest in kids, create more opportunities for higher education and well-paying jobs, and the most substantiative proposal Tuesday night was for more affordable housing.

A man who lives in Champaign laid out a plan to split the cost between his city, Urbana and Champaign County to reach the most people.

Beyond that, the main ask of everyone who spoke was to put the money where it’s needed most: in historically underserved communities.

“I suggest you consolidate the organizational funds moving forward, unless they are for women that are black and brown and LGBTQ people and organizations to flourish, and now can be included in this, what we call American rescue plan,” a Parkland College student emphasized to the council. “Because we’re not being rescued, we’re being left out.”

Council members also expressed their interest in the housing proposal. Member, Vanna Pianfetti said youth programs wouldn’t fall under ARPA funding. Instead, she pointed to the city’s collaboration with the Champaign school district on the LIFT program, an early intervention program designed to help kids who fall behind.

The city has been gathering feedback on American Rescue Plan money since at least July. There were online surveys and in-person events, during which people said they want to see police support, violence intervention, and infrastructure.

The only concrete proposal so far from the city is to use about half of the money in the Garden Hills neighborhood. One portion of that proposal includes installing 119 street lights, one for each intersection.

City staff also proposed hiring a grants manager for the next few years to make sure the money goes where it’s allotted. Council spoke in favor of that.

The next step for the council is a goal-setting process. The money could begin to be dolled out by the end of the year and city officials have until the end of 2024 to allocate all of it.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.