Evanston’s ARPA money could boost new programs

Some new programs are surfacing as candidates for funding as Evanston City Council members begin to focus on how they plan to allocate federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

At a special city council meeting on December 6, city staff introduced council members to some proposed uses of the COVID-19 recovery funds. These were based on board decisions, and staff sought guidance on whether to develop specific recommendations on other proposals.

The city learned in March that Evanston would receive around $ 43.1 million in ARPA funds, presenting what officials have called a unique opportunity to meet long-standing needs.

Of that total, around $ 15.1 million of funds have been committed, according to a detailed memo for the meeting drafted by interim city manager Kelley Gandurski, with city economic development manager Paul Zalmezak and housing manager. and Sarah Flax City Grants. That would leave about $ 28 million to be allocated.

Among the funds already committed, the members of the council have allocated $ 4.25 million for the operation of the General Fund in the budget for fiscal year 2022, $ 2.45 million for the replacement of equipment and nearly 3.3 million dollars for parking fund projects.

In addition, council earlier approved the allocation of $ 500,000 in risk bonus to city employees who worked during the pandemic.

Council members established “buckets” for other funds, with $ 7 million for economic development, $ 4 million for social services, $ 6 million for sewers and Climate Action Plan projects. and Resilience, $ 4 million for Affordable Housing and $ 4 million for Inclusive & Equitable Recovery.

The final category, Inclusive and Equitable Recovery, was created to address “the disproportionate housing, health and economic impacts of the COVD-19 pandemic on low-income communities and the importance of mitigating these effects. According to the staff memo.

Portions of census tracts 8092 in the city’s fifth ward (the Foster-Emerson-Darrow area) and 8102 in the southeast of the eighth ward could benefit from assistance, officials said.

These census tracts “have a high percentage of low-income people,” Flax told council members in a presentation at the meeting. She said these areas are also classified as difficult development areas, which the Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development defines as areas with high land, construction and utility costs compared to the local median income.

In their memo and presentation at the December 6 meeting, officials also highlighted several new programs being proposed to meet recovery needs after COVID-19.

  • In economic development, a program of business district ambassadors would be established.

“Evanston’s business districts are starting to show wear and tear resulting from a number of factors, including aging infrastructure, deferred maintenance and the COVID-19 pandemic,” officials wrote.

“The Ambassador Program will have a strong focus on cleaning and beautifying and will be designed to build relationships with merchants, residents and visitors by helping them orientate themselves, registering 311 concerns, [and] providing cleaning and landscaping services in addition to connecting people with social service needs with Evanston’s social service providers, including Trilogy’s Mental Health Crisis Service.

  • At Social Services, a “Living Room” in mental health the concept is under study; it would provide a safe place for people in distress.

“Evanston lacks community mental health services that offer people facing a mental health crisis an alternative to calling 911 or being hospitalized,” the staff note said.

“Emergency rooms often have long wait times, and patient symptoms can be exacerbated by an often noisy and unwelcoming environment.

“Lounges provide a safe space for people in crisis where they can talk to someone who understands what they are going through. Studies show that people who visit salons perform better than those who visit emergency rooms. Lounges are also a cost-effective alternative to emergency rooms to provide immediate care for people with mental health crises. “

Saint Francis Amita Health, at 355 Ridge Ave., and the Erie Evanston / Skokie Family Health Center, 1285 Hartrey Ave., are considered potential sites.

Based on preliminary construction cost estimates, the budget for a salon in Erie or Saint Francis would range between $ 200,000 and $ 350,000, staff said.

  • In Social Services, daycare services are a major goal.

The Evanston Early Childhood Council (EECC), made up of 25 early childhood service providers, reported operating revenue losses during the pandemic due to declining enrollments and loss of assistance program funding Illinois state child care, as well as other factors, staff said.

The EECC is asking for $ 1.77 million, including $ 500,000 in risk equity / indemnity for vendors who worked during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the child care industry, as well as on the developmental needs of low-income children and their parents, especially mothers who cannot return to the workforce because they can’t find affordable child care, “the staff wrote.

“This has a disparate impact on Evanston’s African American / Black and Latin families, who have disproportionate incomes, and hinders their ability to recover from the financial impacts of COVID. [and hampers] the economic recovery of the town of Evanston.

  • In social services, a Latinx reception center, bringing services together in one place for Evanston’s growing Latinx community is under consideration.

The city’s Hispanic population has grown in recent years, from 6,739 in 2010 to 8,778 in 2020, a 30% increase, staff noted. That exceeded the Hispanic national growth rate of 23%, the note notes.

“Spanish is the primary language of around 45% of Evanston residents who report speaking less than good English,” staff said, “and 20.7% and 19.5% of students in District 65 and 202 [respectively], are Hispanic.

“A Latinx drop-in center could be developed based on the innovative Illinois Department of Public Health (IWC) drop-in center model that removes systematic barriers immigrants may encounter in accessing services and enables immigrant communities to be successful, ”said the staff memo.

“There are 30 IWCs that are full service centers for the integration of immigrants and refugees in Illinois that receive operational support from the IDPH. It remains to be determined whether the IDPH would provide support for the operation of such a center in Evanston if the city used ARPA to finance the initial capital needs and start-up costs.

During the discussion, Council Member Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, asked the name, Latinx Welcoming Center and whether there should be a larger label for the center, noting that the city also has arrivals from a number of different countries.

Flax said she needed to do more research on this issue.

“Our Latinx population is by far our largest non-English speaking group and our largest immigrant group,” she said. “And so I think, [it] must be at the center of it. But it doesn’t have to be exclusive.

Council members have made no decisions on these or other proposals on the table, including a $ 1 million request from The Aux to create a black business center and a $ 2 million request from The Aux. Northlight Theater in support of its return to Evanston. Discussions on the proposals have been postponed until January.

Under ARPA guidelines, municipalities have until December 31, 2024 to commit ARPA funds; all funds must be spent by December 31, 2026.


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