Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington City Council forwards COVID-19 community investment fund, supports federal union act

A view of downtown Bloomington from the 7th and Walnut Street Parking Garage. The Bloomington City Council approved a COVID-19 recovery fund which targets economic recovery, housing insecurity and support for communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
A view of downtown Bloomington from the 7th and Walnut Street Parking Garage. The Bloomington City Council approved a COVID-19 recovery fund which targets economic recovery, housing insecurity and support for communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The Bloomington City Council agreed to adopt a COVID-19 recovery investment fund and to support a federal act providing increased protections for labor unions as well as reviewing a city quality of life survey.

ARP Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund disbursement plans

The council unanimously voted to adopt a Community Investment Plan, which details the allotment of American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funds to local projects and organizations.

Mayor John Hamilton said the plan focuses on recovering from the pandemic and especially helping disproportionately affected communities. He said the city’s major funding goals are sustainability, inclusion and equity.

According to the plan, the city wants to focus funds on four major categories: revenue replacement, housing insecurity, economic recovery and public infrastructure.

 

Regarding the local economy. The city will fund multiple organizations and projects totaling about $3.3 million in 2021. Funding disbursement includes:

  • A $250,000 grant to the Bloomington Housing Authority to create more affordable housing options.

  • A $1,200,000 grant to the Housing Insecurity Group focused on increasingly helping people experiencing housing insecurity.

  • $200,000 to support a new landlord risk mitigation fund to increase the participation of landlords in programs for renters facing housing insecurity.

  • $150,000 for inclusive job training and employment growth through a variety of local groups for underemployed categories of workers.

  • $175,000 for recovery grants to local arts and cultural groups for multiple improvements.

  • $550,000 to fund deferred maintenance at the Waldron to reintroduce it as a community arts venue and help recovering arts organizations.

  • $50,000 to evaluate a possible new downtown performing arts facility.

The city will invest resources in the following infrastructure improvement programs:

  • $700,000, offered as a loan/credit program to the City of Bloomington Utilities, for a program to identify and inventory all lead-based service lines and prepare for a replacement program.

  • $75,000 to advance the goals of the Digital Equity Strategic Plan, including expanding public wi-fi access at city parks.

The city currently has not received requests for funding for revenue replacement or for addressing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on low-income families and communities of color.

The council established the ARP Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund on June 16 to utilize federal government funds responding to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community.

Bloomington will receive two installments of emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 totaling an estimated $22.1 million. The city received its first allotment May 20 for approximately $11 million and will receive the remaining amount in 2022.

Support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act

The council unanimously passed a resolution urging the U.S. Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which includes protections for workers related to unions and their employers.

Jerry Sutherlin, Southern Indiana Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO president, said this act intends to make it easier for workers to create unions and stand up for themselves against their employers. The act, if passed, can overturn state right-to-work laws, which make it more difficult for workers to join or create a union, and make it difficult for corporations to fight against unions.

Councilmember Susan Sandberg sponsored the resolution and was co-sponsored by all other councilmembers. Sandberg said this act urges everyone to take a look at the reforms and will have an effect on the local workforce.

“Bloomington has certainly had a rich history of being in support of labor,” Sandberg said. “It is very very important for us to support this act.” 

City of Bloomington quality of life survey data

In a 2021 City of Bloomington survey dispersed to residents, Damema Mann, National Research Center and Polco director of national engagement, said Bloomington residents said they have a very high quality of life.

Residents largely rated the city positively as a place to live and visit. The best things about living in Bloomington according to residents include parks and green space, the sense of community, entertainment and accessibility, according to the survey data.

Six in ten residents positively rated they feel the city is welcoming to all residents and attracting and respecting people from diverse backgrounds, according to the data.

Residents’ perception of safety services, including fire and emergency medical services, were largely positive. However, positive ratings for police services dropped from 83% to 60% since 2019, the lowest rating since the question began being asked in 2017. Positive ratings of resident interaction with police dropped to 42% and positive ratings of crime prevention dropped to 54%.

Residents voiced their concerns in the survey regarding housing and affordability. According to the data, satisfaction ratings regarding the cost of living, variety of housing options and availability of affordable housing options declined.

Homelessness also was identified as a major challenge for the city, and residents largely agreed they supported assisted housing for those experiencing homelessness, according to the data.

Residents said the things they liked least about Bloomington was affordable housing with 10% and homelessness with 29%, according to the data.



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