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Posted on June 29, 2020 at 3:07 PM by Melinda Mayo
The Star City Strong Recovery Fund Task Force met for the first time last week to begin their work on assisting City Council in determining the most effective and equitable way to support the community’s recovery from COVID-19, and strengthen its resiliency for similar future shocks. The work of the Task Force is guided by the Star City Strong framework, which is being used to aid in shaping how the City supports recovery and resiliency efforts while continuing to manage its response to the virus. This post offers additional insight into the Task Force and its work.
The Task Force and Its Role
The role of the Task Force is to review the funding resources that have been made available (approximately $7.7 million) by Council to support the recovery efforts, and the various guidelines and restrictions that accompany those resources, and align them with priorities for recovery. Following a set of discussions and series of meetings, the Task Force will identify recommendations to Council on the types of programs and initiatives the funds should be used.
The Task Force is chaired by the Mayor and Vice-Mayor, with support from my office, the City Attorney, and the City Clerk. Thirty-six citizens have been appointed by Council representing a variety of diverse interests including education, small business, arts and culture, manufacturing, youth, and others. This group will meet a total of four times between June 26 and July 20, when their recommendations will be delivered to Council.
Why a Task Force?
Most communities throughout the nation are dedicating some amount of money to address COVID-related impacts, and most elected boards are simply identifying what the funds will be used for. So why did the Council feel it necessary to establish a citizen task force? The Council felt strongly that the most effective and equitable use of the funds would be best defined by engaging directly with the community, rather than just making the determination on their own. This may slow the process a bit but, in the end, the belief is better decisions will be made.
Where did the $7.7 million come from? Upon the creation of the Star City Strong framework back in May, the Council committed at least $1 million in funding to support recovery. The funds identified were a combination of general revenue funds held for economic development ($500,000), and a special allocation of CDBG funding and ESG funding through the Congressional CARES Act ($2.476 million – a portion of which is available for this initiative). On June 1, the City received its share of the CARES Act funds allocated for municipalities ($6.5 million). One-third of the city’s CARES Act funding will be used for continued COIVD-related response costs, such as physical changes to municipal buildings to enable the safe transaction of services, purchase of PPE, etc. In total this provides about $7.7 million with varying timelines, restrictions, etc., available to support recovery efforts. Most notably, none of the CARES Act funding can be used to replace any of the nearly $12 million in lost revenue that necessitated expenditure reductions in both the FY 20 and FY 21 City budgets.
So What Will Be Done With the Money?
There are many ideas for how the money may best be used: grants to small businesses trying to re-establish their business, expansion of internet access for students and teleworkers, resources for non-profits ensuring access to healthy food, assistance with rent, utility bills, etc. to help people remain in their homes as they struggle with unemployment, etc. The list of needs is long and, again, each of the funding sources have their own rules and guidelines. Working through this list of needs and arriving at the best package offering the most equitable and beneficial help is the charge of the Task Force.
The Task Force is currently meeting virtually and each meeting is being recorded and made available online. In addition to the recorded meetings, notes from each meeting, additional information about the funding resources, and other helpful information may be found at the Star City Strong website. Along the way, you are encouraged to share your thoughts and ideas with the Task Force and may do so by emailing [email protected] or by joining the public hearing, which the Task Force will convene in July prior to delivering their recommendations to Council.
It’s a lot to get accomplished in a very short amount of time and the stakes are high, but a great group of committed folks have assembled to help the Council and City Administration, and together I am certain we will arrive at the best way we can use these resources to ensure Roanoke, the Star City, remains strong and resilient.
— Bob Cowell
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