Published in Economic Development

Child care, mental health, lead water line replacement top public priorities for Grand Rapids ARPA spending

BY Tuesday, October 18, 2022 05:14pm

GRAND RAPIDS — City officials will invest $300,000 in affordable child care for second- and third-shift workers and $290,000 on youth affordable housing following the results of a public vote on spending federal COVID-19 stimulus funding.

City officials today presented the vote results of a process that splits $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars among the city’s three wards. The Participatory Budget Grand Rapids process included $600,000 for the First Ward, $400,000 for the Second Ward and $1 million for the Third Ward.

From Sept. 30-Oct. 5, residents aged 13 and older from these wards selected on their top priorities for spending the federal ARPA funds in a ranked-choice voting process. Affordable child care for second- and third-shift workers garnered the most votes in the First Ward. A mental health community first-responder program topped Second Ward priorities, while lead water line replacement was the top priority in the Third Ward. (See below for full results by ward.)

A total of 12 projects will receive a portion of the $2 million from the Participatory Budget Grand Rapids (PBGR) process, Assistant City Manager Doug Matthews told the Grand Rapids City Commission during a committee meeting today.

The next step in the PBGR process is to work with the appropriate city departments to determine the scope for each project and develop requests for proposals, Matthews said. The city will offer education for local organizations that want to participate in the RFP process, he added.

“It really was a lot of boots-on-the-ground kind of work,” First Ward Commissioner Kurt Reppart said during today’s meeting. “I’m just really grateful we’re at this point.”

Second Ward Commissioner Milinda Ysasi noted that both projects chosen by voters in her ward are related to public safety.

“We are continuing to have this evolving conversation on what it means to be safe and secure in this city and I appreciate the efforts of executive staff to continue to say: What does public safety mean, and how do we stay healthy in this city?” Ysasi said. “And really looking at the mental health crisis we have in our community that we knew existed before the pandemic, but certainly after the pandemic.”

Grand Rapids residents age 13 or older were able to vote online or in person at pop-up events and at all Grand Rapids Public Library locations for projects in their wards. Results showed that 2,081 residents participated in the voting process, including 611 ­in the First Ward, 826 ­in the Second Ward, and 610 ­in the Third Ward. Most people voted at onsite voting locations.

The city of Grand Rapids received a $92 million ARPA allocation, but only $2 million was part of the PBGR process. The $2 million will be split among each ward, with $600,000 for the First Ward, $400,000 for the Second Ward, and $1 million for the Third Ward.

“One of the things we have to be honest about at this point is that the folks who submitted the ideas are not experts in the work,” Matthews told commissioners. “The proposals were built around the ideas that were offered, and now we have a responsibility to really be thoughtful about how we fill in those blanks and put something together that fulfills those expectations that were articulated.”

During some of the community meetings leading up to the PBGR voting week, City Manager Mark Washington said he was asked multiple times if there will be a future PBGR process with other public funds. 

Washington noted that city officials would need to get through this round of funding and learn from the process first. As well, the projects that were not chosen for funding will still inform city officials on how to use other funds in their budgeting process, he said.

“This is not just about winners and losers from this process,” Washington said. “There is a robust process that we’ll take to implement this and other ideas that were not funded.”

Projects that will receive funding based on the public vote are: 

First Ward: $600,000 total investment

  • Affordable child care for second- and third-shift workers ($150,000);
  • Supporting victims of domestic violence and human trafficking ($100,000);
  • Youth affordable housing support ($145,000);
  • Cleaning up Grand Rapids ($75,000);
  • Community reading initiative for violence reduction ($50,000); and
  • Citizen advocacy skills academy ($80,000).

Second Ward: $400,000 total investment

  • Mental health community first responders ($350,000); and
  • CURE Violence ($50,000, plus additional possible investment).

Third Ward: $1 million total investment

  • Lead water line replacement ($500,000);
  • Affordable child care for second- and third-shift workers ($150,000);
  • Youth affordable housing support ($145,000); and
  • Community-based violence reduction initiative ($205,000).

Full project descriptions can be found online at PBGR.org.

Read 1405 times Last modified on Wednesday, 19 October 2022 06:27