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Ideas For Bloomington's Federal COVID Funds Include Housing And Public Infrastructure

A close shot of Bloomington City Hall.

(Ethan Burks, WFIU/WTIU News)

Bloomington expects to receive $22.27 million in federal funding through President Joe Biden’s recently passed American Rescue Plan Act. Monroe County government will receive $28.79 million.

Mayor John Hamilton met virtually with the city council Tuesday night in the first of many public meetings to discuss how to spend the money.

"We do not want to wait to begin the discussion about how this money could be invested," Hamilton said. "That $50 million dollars is an extraordinary one-time opportunity for us to help our community recover, rescue and move forward correctly."

Hamilton and his administration have already begun drafting some preliminary ideas on where the money could go, in which Hamilton depicted as the "Four Buckets" of potential investment:

  1. Bucket #1: Recovering Lost City Revenues
  2. Bucket #2: Housing Insecurity
  3. Bucket #3: Economic Recovery
  4. Bucket #4: Public Infrastructure

"What are steps that we can take with this funding to improve the lives of many of whom are really experiencing tough times?" Hamilton said. 

City council spent much of its time talking about housing and how the money could help shelter those experiencing homelessness as well as Bloomington’s workforce.

Councilmember Susan Sandberg says the federal money could help address the affordable housing issue by supplying the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) Department with more resources.

"To make sure the housing development fund is strong and healthy and more capable of providing the subsidies that we all know are necessary to get to affordability," Sandberg said. 

Other topics touched on Tuesday night included reducing Bloomington's carbon footprint by using the funds to help install solar panels on more buildings and houses around town, and how the city can collaborate better with Indiana University throughout the entire process.

"I’m hoping that we can be a little creative with any kind of partnership with one of our largest employers in the middle of our city," Sandberg said.

The city said the federal government has not provided much direction on how local governments can distribute the money, but it has to be spent by December 31, 2024.

"Our understanding so far is that the government is trying to leave it as open as possible," city controller Jeff Underwood said.

The city expects to consider at least one appropriation ordinance this year to allocate a portion of the $22 million. 

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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