Council considers using COVID relief funds to help Peoria residents pay for rising utility bills

Peoria(25 News Now)
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 10:11 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Peoria residents might soon get some help paying soaring utility bills as the city council Tuesday night discussed ways to spend some of the millions of COVID relief dollars the city is receiving from the federal government.

City staffers preparing the budget are seeking guidance from elected officials on various proposals to spend American Rescue Plan funds.

The council at a policy session also reviewed proposals to use the money to combat violent crime and boost economic development.

City staff recommends spending $150,000 in each of the next two years to aid an estimated 500 households that don’t qualify for existing programs to help with utility bills.

At-large council members Sid Ruckriegel and Elizabeth Jensen indicated they would favor adding more money to the program.

“You’re hearing from two council members that we ought to increase that a little bit more because this program does have some really good legs to it,” said Ruckriegel.

A reduction in federal COVID dollars to aid local housing rehabilitation would free up the money for energy cost relief, according to the staff’s proposal, but Mayor Rita Ali wants staff to come up with a way to fully fund both programs.

COVID dollars for violence prevention

To battle violent crime, city staffers propose to spend $500,000 on so-called “hot spot intervention,” in addition to $735,000 being allocated to implement other violence prevention programs.

The “hot spot” program won’t be done until next year as the police department analyzes 10 years of data to precisely determine troubled areas. Various city departments will team with community stakeholders to identify neighborhood problems,” said Police Chief Eric Echevarria.

“We’re going to see the problem and we’re gong to immediately make an effect in that area,” said Echevarria.

“There’s a pothole. How do we get that pothole fixed? There’s a light that’s out. Let’s get this light fixed within that first week,” Echevarria said.

City manager makes economic development funding proposals

City Manager Patrick Urich recommends $300,000 for use by the Racial Justice and Equity (RJE) Economic Development and Jobs Subcommittee, which among other things aims to help grow minority businesses. Urich said there’s a need to identify gaps in workforce development and provide income support.

Urich said $450,000 is earmarked for the Tourism Reserve Fund. Local tourism dollars have declined during the pandemic and this is a chance to recoup some of those losses, the city manager said.

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