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How Should County Spend $144 Million in COVID Relief Money?

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello on Oct. 16, 2021, announced a survey for input on how the county should spend money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Image from facebook.com/CountyExecBello/videos

Public health or workforce development?

Economic recovery or public safety?

Improving water and sewer systems and high-speed internet or renewable energy?

Where do you want to see Monroe County spend $144 million in COVID-19 recovery funding?

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced Oct. 16 a survey and series of public meetings to gather opinion as part of Bring Monroe Back.

The initiative pairs with the start of Plan Forward, what the Democratic county executive called the first comprehensive plan in 40 years and which he also announced Oct. 16.

Bello said that Bring Monroe Back and Plan Forward will be a blueprint for the county’s immediate recovery from the pandemic and provide long-term strategic direction.

As for the more pressing need, which is to apportion the $144 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, the county launched a survey for residents and people who own businesses, work or are part of an organization in Monroe County.

The brief survey asks respondents to rank their top three areas of focus based on community reports from nonprofit organizations, business leaders and government that identified six areas: economic recovery, infrastructure improvement such as water and sewer and high-speed internet, public health and wellness, public safety, sustainability such as renewable energy sources, and workforce development.

The survey makes it seem as though participants have to choose either/or of the predetermined categories. “Bring Monroe Back, Monroe County’s recovery agenda, will base its funding strategy upon your feedback and the well-researched recommendations of our community leaders and local experts,” the site proclaims.

It’s not yet clear how priorities will be set, if all areas will be funded in some way or what the Monroe County Legislature will have to say about what constituents want. Several legislators are facing challenges in the upcoming election and in some districts, new faces will be elected.

According to Civilytics Consulting, a data science consulting firm, the ARPA allocation for Monroe County breaks down to about $194 per resident.

There are restrictions on how the money can be spent, including a timeframe that work be completed on ARPA-funded projects by Dec. 31, 2026.

The Black and Asian Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature along with legislator Vince Felder have scheduled a forum for 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at the David Gantt R-Center, 700 North St., to hear from residents about how they think the money should be spent.

The survey at www.monroecounty.gov/bringmonroeback also asks how respondents have been affected by the pandemic – whether they’ve faced emotional, employment, financial, lifestyle or medical challenges, or no challenges.

A series of public meetings is scheduled over the next several weeks:

  • Oct. 27 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Millennium Lodge, Greece Canal Park, 241 Elmgrove Road;
  • Nov. 10 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School, 501 Genesee St.;
  • Dec. 1, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Grand View Lodge, Powder Mills Park, 154 Park Road, Pittsford; and
  • Dec. 8 from noon to 1:30 p.m. a virtual forum held via Zoom. Email BringMonroeBack@monroecounty.gov for the link.

The city is receiving $202.1 million in ARPA funds and Mayor Lovely Warren had proposed a strategic plan (www.cityofrochester.gov/ARPA/) that includes guaranteed basic income, job training, a program to combat redlining and connecting the community to nature. Mayor Lovely Warren has submitted three pieces of legislation related to ARPA funding, and all three passed City Council.

According to Civilytics Consulting, the city’s ARPA allocation breaks down to about $983 per resident.