Star City Strong Recovery and Resiliency Fund
More than a year ago an advisory panel composed of residents, business owners, service providers and others recommended to the City Council how best to invest the more than $64 million in relief funds the City would be receiving from the Federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act approved by Congress to enable local governments to support their community’s recovery from the impacts of COVID and to aid their community’s resiliency against similar future shocks. Upon receipt of half of the funds last May and with the concurrence of the City Council, the City began acting on those recommendations.
At the June 21 meeting of the City Council, I will be providing a detailed review of how these funds have been spent, the impact they are having and how the remainder of the funds may be spent going forward. Over the next few weeks, I will use this blog to post information about specific programs and initiatives addressed with this funding. A few important reminders about the funding - the federal government provided detailed rules on the what, how and when of the funding, funds cannot be used to lower or rebate taxes, funds may be used to offset tax revenue lost due to the impacts of COVID, the City’s budget is balanced without reliance on the funds enabling all of the funds to be used on the various initiatives and the Council seeks to invest in initiatives that have the potential of a transformative impact.
This post I want to focus on the food security initiative recommended by the Panel.
Food Insecurity and LEAP
Prior to COVID it was well known that food insecurity existed within portions of our community and that during COVID this insecurity was even more prominent resulting in further strain placed upon food pantries and feeding programs as well as poorer health outcomes for local residents. The Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) has for a number of years been working in collaboration with the City and many others to address the issues of access to healthy affordable fresh food. The LEAP Mobile Market, Virginia Fresh Match and Market Bucks are but a few examples of LEAP’s pre-COVID efforts.
Based upon the recommendations of the Advisory Panel, the City awarded $2.5 million of its ARPA allocation for the purpose of expanding and enhancing LEAP’s access to food programs. This award has enabled LEAP to acquire property at 1027 Patterson to expand their facility serving the needs of the West End neighborhood, expand the reach and frequency of the LEAP Mobile Market, expand programs focused on affordability of fresh food, expand and enhance community gardens, expand and enhance the urban farm in NW Roanoke, and make improvements at its farmers markets
This Monday, June 13, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) will visit the property at Patterson to celebrate use of the ARPA funding and a VDACS grant awarded to LEAP to further support this initiative.
A Number of Initiatives
This is just one example of how the ARPA funds are being used to address an issue present pre-COVID, made worse by COVID and doing so in a way that will make our community and its most vulnerable residents more resilient to similar future shocks.
Over the next few weeks, I will highlight other such programs and initiatives as we continue to work together to make Roanoke Star City Strong!
- Bob Cowell