Gainesville’s $32 Million In American Rescue Plan Funding: The Proposals, Explained

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The American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joseph R. Biden on March 11, provides the City of Gainesville with $32 million to address a host of pandemic-related problems and needs. The city is sifting through dozens of proposals that would direct federal funds into additional social services, the local economy, housing, and a host of infrastructure projects.

The final community feedback session on the American Rescue Plan funding is being held Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. Attendees must pre-register for the session by using this link.

Over 60 proposals have been submitted to the city so far. The full collection of proposals can be viewed and downloaded here. The following is a summary of the five priciest proposals from each category.

The Gainesville City Commission is expected to receive the proposals and feedback at its July 15 meeting, with a decision on certain proposals to follow.

The Pine Meadows public housing complex in East Gainesville on June, 2, 2021. The complex is operated by the Gainesville Housing Authority. (Photo by Walter Harwood/WUFT News)

Housing:

• Energy Efficiency and Environmental: Five separate proposals call for over $24 million in spending to improve home energy efficiency and increase home weatherization in the area.

• Low Income Housing: The “Low/Very Low Income Affordable Housing Strategy Fund” would provide $8 million in funding to create a community land trust, provide subsidies for developers building low income housing, provide funds to renovate and repair existing housing, and funds for housing vouchers.

• Community Land Trust: This two-part proposal would provide $5 million to create and fund a community land trust to “support affordable housing” and “prevent displacement.”

• Rent Debt Relief: This $5 million proposal, described in city documents as “a homeless prevention program,” would provide aid to people behind on rent. The goal is to reduce the number of local evictions, in line with local, state and national eviction moratoriums.

The program would target “low and very low-income neighbors” who incurred their rental debt between April 2020, and July 2021.

• GRACE Marketplace and Outreach: Two proposals, totaling $3.2 million, would provide the GRACE Marketplace campus and street outreach teams with additional funding to improve and expand a variety of services.

The plan calls for a “public health nurse pilot program” to improve health resources among people with inadequate access to healthcare. The proposals also call for a “law enforcement pilot program” to shorten response times at GRACE — the plan also calls for a new “affordable housing development.”

Economic proposals:

$1,000 direct credit on GRU bills: This proposal would provide direct payments to people with outstanding GRU utility balances and people who’ve had their power shut off multiple times.

• National Center for Arts, Technology; Manchester Bidwell Job Training Day: This job training day is already in planning stages. The proposal states that $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding would accelerate the project timeline and allow for the creation of additional job training and after school programs.

Utility debt forgiveness: This utility proposal would use $1 million in American Rescue Plan funding to cancel all the GRU utility debts accrued by people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participatory bidding: This proposal would use $2 million in funding to create a participatory budgeting system, whereby Gainesville residents can directly decide how to spend a portion of the city budget.

Revenue replacement for General Government: The revenue replacement proposal would use $1.25 million in funding to replace revenue the city lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trucks traveling down Interstate 75 on June 2, 2021, as seen from the Celebration Point Avenue overpass. (Photo by Walter Harwood/WUFT News)

Infrastructure:

Note: The infrastructure proposals involve transportation, broadband, health care, food distribution and capital projects.

Broadband expansion: Two proposals call for expansions to the city’s broadband internet infrastructure. One involves spending $15 million over two years to expand fiber optic internet in low-income neighborhoods and Gainesville Housing Authority-owned properties. The other proposal calls for $13 million in total investment in broadband infrastructure.

Citizens Field upgrades: This $5 million proposal would provide additional funding to already planned improvements to Citizens Field, turning the land into “a modern day destination with mixed uses.”

Improving the city’s built environment: This proposal provides $4.5 million to “directly address support for recovery in the downtown hospitality industry and road safety.” Southwest 1st Avenue would be redesigned as a pedestrian mall, and high-danger roadways would be redesigned as “complete streets,” improving pedestrian, cyclist and driver safety.

East side grocery store: According to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank, East Gainesville is a food desert. This $3.3 million proposal would help fund an additional grocery store on Gainesville’s East side.

CRP program expansion: This $3 million proposal would expand Gainesville’s Community Resource Paramedicine Program. An additional proposal would provide $600,000 for the CRP to procure additional equipment and to expand their services.

• Infinity Loop: The Infinity Loop is a proposed project to connect Gainesville’s North-South bicycle and pedestrian trails. This proposal would provide $3 million in funding improve cycling infrastructure in Gainesville.

Social services:

Social services delivery via community partners and partner support: This $4.5 million proposal would provide direct emergency support to Gainesville’s homeless by assisting housing agencies, funding utility payment plans, and increasing funding for homeless shelters and outreach centers such as GRACE Marketplace and Peaceful Paths.

Funding called for by this proposal:

  • Peaceful Paths would receive $225,000
  • Family Promise would receive $500,000
  • GRACE Marketplace would receive $1.45 million.
  • $1.26 million would be used to fund emergency housing vouchers.
  • Catholic Charities would receive approximately $1 million to make GRU payments on behalf of low and very low income people currently on GRU payment plan status.

Aid to local non-profit organizations: Several proposals would provide funds to local non-profit organizations. One proposal, which totals $2.5 million, would provide funding to organizations that provide aid to formerly incarcerated people, low and very low income people, undocumented immigrants and people displaced by violence. The funding would also help organizations dedication to preventing violence and food insecurity.

The Non-Profit Capacity Building proposal provides $200,000 in funding to develop additional buildings at existing non-profit organizations.

The Non-Profit Assistance proposal would provide $2 million in grants to non-profits that serve marginalized and underserved communities.

Two separate proposals would provide a total of $1 million in funding for non-profits that support local immigrants and undocumented residents.

Language access: Two proposals deal with language accessibility. The first would provide $1 million in funding to increase multilingual access to city services.

The GINI-Language Access proposal would provide $1 million to respond to the “linguistical and literacy diversity of its neighbors in order to achieve greater equity and inclusion of limited English proficient speakers.”

Verde Point: According to the proposal, Verde Point is a plan to buy and adapt “an abandoned building in our city to be repurposed as a sustainability hub…” The cost of this proposal has yet to be determined, but plans call for the building to have food booths, a theater, offices and subsidized apartments for seniors.

About Houston Harwood

Houston is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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