With $78M to spend, Columbus asks for public input on American Rescue Plan funding

American Rescue Plan Act
American Rescue Plan Act(kfyr)
Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 12:45 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The public has the chance to let Columbus city leaders know how they’d like to see funds from the American Rescue Plan Act used.

News Leader 9 attended the first of two public meetings Monday evening at the City Services Center as officials talked about funding priorities.

Federal funding from the American Rescue Plan aims to provide economic relief from the pandemic’s negative economic and health impacts.

Columbus Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge says the plan allocates the Columbus Consolidated Government (CCG) a total of $78.4 million to be paid in two rounds. Hodge says they received $39 million in June and expect to receive the second half by June of next year.

Mayor Skip Henderson says the pandemic has impacted so many parts of the community over the last year and a half. “Our focus is quite simple. It’s to find the best way to heal the most people with the amount of money that we have allotted to us. And to do that, it makes no sense not to include the people in the community.”

CCG is asking for the public’s input on a list of priorities they’ve come up with for the funding to go toward.

These include: automation of garbage collection, revenue recovery, community safe guard programs and cameras, premium pay for certain employees and more.

“This should be channeled towards the critical areas of our community specifically the areas that are suffering.  The recreational areas that we used to have, aquatic recreational activities that we used to have that we don’t have because they said we didn’t have enough to pay lifeguards,” said Jerome Lawson, small business owner.

The list of priorities also includes small business grants.

“We’re talking three million in the first round. Three million, just be on the watch for the grant application process because there will be an opportunity to get small business grants,” said Isiah Hugley, city manager.

The federal government has not given final guidance yet on how exactly these funds can be used.

There will be an update for the city council on this input from the public on August 10. On August 24, the council will vote on funding priorities.

There will be a second public meeting in the council chambers at the City Services Center this Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.

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