MORGANTOWN— Affordable housing, needle exchange programs and a mobile health unit were just a few of the ideas area residents had for spending federal dollars.
After receiving more than $11 million in recovery funds through the federal American Rescue Plan Act, the City of Morgantown wanted to hear the best ways to spend it from those it would impact most— residents, businesses and community organizations.“We know things that we think need improved, but that doesn’t necessarily always line up with what maybe the community thinks that we should be focusing on,” said Morgantown Communications Director Andrew Stacy.
On Wednesday evening, Morgantown community members were invited to the Marilla Center to share their thoughts on how ARP funding should be allocated. To engage community members, city representatives set up tables representing different ways funding can be used and documented thoughts on each. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the options for how ARP funding can be used are limited to:
- responding to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality;
- responding to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers;
- being used for the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency; and making necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
“We wanted this to be a very interactive discussion with the community on different topics,” said assistant city manager Emily Muzzarelli, who spoke with residents about public health, social services and emergency services.
From investing in needle exchange programs to installing light fixtures along the Deckers Creek Trail, community members shared dozens of ideas with representatives. Danielle Trumble, deputy mayor and fifth ward council member, held discussions around how to best support local businesses. She said many shared thoughts on developing grants for small businesses and finding new ways to help local shops.
Morgantown resident Rebekah Aranda said one way she hopes to see funding used is towards implementing a mobile health unit. She said this could have several uses, including as a COVID-19 mobile testing location when needed or for making general community health services more accessible.
“I think that the public certainly has a voice in determining what our needs are, making sure that our minority communities aren’t left behind, that we’re using this money to lift everybody up, to make our city safer and make it a better place to live for everyone,” Aranda said.
Gary Maust and Emily Quinlan both hoped to see funding be used toward improving dilapidated housing in the Greenmont and South Park areas. By improving this housing, they think it would create safe and affordable housing options in the area.
“The idea isn’t to eliminate affordable housing,” Quinlan said. “It’s really just to make affordable housing in a decent area.”
Ideas collected from the public will be discussed and used to draft an action plan at 8 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Marilla Center. The ARP Action Plan will be presented by city council Sept. 21.
Those who were unable to attend the event are still able to provide input until Saturday via an online survey at www.morgantownwv.gov.