I made the first call to action on my blog back on May 11 when I asked for complete transparency and community input on how to spend the American Recovery Act funds.
Back then and still today, I advocate for $3 million to support our non profits, roughly the match of what they lost from two lost years of hotel-motel tax funds. I also advocate for $5 million to go to support local small businesses still feeling the effects of COVID and Derecho. Many of them are still not up to full speed due now to worker shortages.
As for the remaining money, I believe it is be up to the community to provide input regarding what’s most important. It’s critical all ideas are heard. I do not think we need another task force or committee to make this happen. It’s the job of our City Council to listen to their constituents and bring those ideas forward. Our city has great staff that work everyday on these issues and can provide additional insights and we have a plan, EnvisionCR, that already provides a roadmap.
My priority would be to use this funding to move us forward. Use this as a game-changing opportunity for Cedar Rapids and our citizens. Provide recovery while propelling us forward.
Let’s start with infill housing, with a designated portion for affordable housing, in areas hardest hit by natural disasters, COVID and flooding. Our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods have felt the biggest impacts over the years and still sit vacant in many cases. We know this is an immediate need and this will have long lasting effects for current and future residents.
Let’s use a portion of the funds to provide incentives to property owners to improve properties downtown. Create public-private partnerships that invite companies to re-locate downtown. Incentivize new business, shops, attractions to start downtown to provide a variety of offerings that will make a vibrant city center.
Finally, workforce development. This is the ultimate gamechanger for our citizens. Let’s make sure our citizens are ready for the jobs we have today and tomorrow. I would challenge the County to match City funds towards this goal. Let’s make sure our people have the skills to match the jobs we need.
Let’s use this one-time opportunity to envision a brighter Cedar Rapids for all of our residents.