Jefferson City is looking to receive $2 million in COVID-relief funding to address unmet needs.
The first step is identifying those unmet needs. To do so, the city has created a survey for residents to help guide where the funds are needed.
“It has to be activities that tie back to recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rachel Senzee, neighborhood services supervisor.
Funding can go toward community facility, general infrastructure, economic development, demolition, planning and public services.
The unfunded needs survey will help narrow on which aspects to focus. The funds are not a guarantee, she said, but the city can request up to $2 million.
The survey is open until Aug. 15 and is on the city’s website, jeffersoncitymo.gov, or at surveymonkey.com/r/M6SMN87.
Officials will also hold a public meeting at 3 p.m. Aug. 26 at City Hall for residents to comment about potential uses for the funds.
“People are learning more, getting more involved in what we’re doing as local government, but then local government’s also becoming more and more aware of what’s happening in the community,” Senzee said. “This is a good healthy thing to do. It’s just different from how we’ve proceeded in the past.”
Senzee said the city will propose potential projects and seek public comment for five days before sending it to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which is distributing the funds.
“It’s not just filling out a form and submitting it,” she said. “We have to do all these different public engagements and assessments to justify why we are pursuing an activity to fund.”
This process will start looking familiar, Senzee said, since the city has several pools of potential funding becoming available over the next five years. These include more than $7 million in disaster relief for the 2019 tornado and subsequent flooding and additional American Rescue Plan funds the city can apply for to address different needs.
“We’ve never partnered this closely with the community before, and if the city is going to take full advantage of the funding opportunities that are available through both CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan, we have to collaborate,” Senzee said. “We are not going to be able to do it as a government entity on our own. We need our community partners.”
The city could use funds directly for infrastructure projects, and staff identified several potential projects in the survey to receive resident input, such as demolition of dangerous buildings, widening Monroe Street and a housing needs assessment.
Residents can also provide suggestions for projects that would address a need in the community.
Senzee said a local organization has reached out about potentially using the funding to plan a low-barrier shelter to help address homelessness. Such a project would qualify.
“They could fill out the survey and identify that as a need, participate in the public hearing,” she said. “We say, ‘OK, out of this $2 million, we’ll identify $75,000 for your planning activity.’ That would be a sub-grant to that nonprofit entity.”
In addition to specific projects, the survey asks residents to rate different aspects of the city, such as the water system, stormwater handling, streets, bridges, public safety services, parking, mental health counseling, community centers, housing and education.
“The idea here is to bring as much funding into Jefferson City as possible,” Senzee said. “Otherwise, this is going to go somewhere else.”
Originally Appeared Here