By Dawn Scotland
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter
On August 31, over 120 community members gathered at Scott High School for the final public forum presented by the City of Toledo to address the allocation of funds for the Toledo Recovery Plan. The forum was the last public one of a series of six that allowed for suggestions from Toledoans on the city’s use of the 180 million dollars provided by the United States government per the American Rescue Plan.
In 2021, President Joe Biden created the American Rescue Plan in response to the racial disparities created by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. $180, 948,591 in funding has been allocated to the city of Toledo with half of the funds received in May 2021 and the other half to be received in May 2022. The funds must be used in their entirety by December 31, 2026.
The information provided by the city stated, “the American Rescue Plan Act puts an emphasis on equity – addressing the root causes of poverty and building wealth within communities of color. ARPA must be spent on specific terms that are approved by the US Department of Treasury. It cannot be used for everything Toledo needs.”
The city states that funding can also be used for third party grants, “The City may deliver all ARPA services itself as the recipient. [The City] may also choose to award some of this funding to third-party partners called sub-recipients. These include non-profits and other units of local government. These decisions will be made by the Mayor and City Council after community input has been received and reviewed.”
Doni Miller, CEO of Neighborhood Health Association, served as moderator for the forum with Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and city council members in attendance in the audience. The forum responses were recorded by the City of Toledo staff.
Opening the forum Miller stated, “This is your time to talk to the city about how you would like to see the money spent.” Miller ensured the audience “there is no pre-planned agenda (from the city)… tell the city what you want them to do.”
Miller presented the bullet points from the city that served as “sample categories” for Toledo’s Recovery Plan, emphasizing to the audience “do not allow it to limit your thinking.”
“Toledo’s Recovery Plan Priorities” presented by the city are: “youth, recreation, and parks; safe and livable neighborhoods; job creation and economic development; green and healthy housing; and avoiding cuts to city services (such as keeping capital improvement funding for capital improvement projects and replacing old equipment and vehicles for first responders).”
Participants, who came from all areas of Toledo and across varying demographics, offered a range of suggestions and problems to city. These suggestions included but were not limited to: home repair programs, creating an endowment for city parks, creation of community hubs, infant mortality assistance, 24 hour programs for those battling addiction and assistance with the groundhog infestation in the inner city. Many in attendance were those who are in the frontlines of the community’s issues serving as advocates and leaders in community programs and nonprofits. Also present were local artists, activists and concerned residents.
The forum exceeded the one-hour limit set by the city with many of the participants offering a resounding call for the need to speak. The city extended the time of the forum. Throughout the event several participants offered frustrations about the process and were uninhibited in vocalizing their suspicions and distrust over the government’s distribution of the funds.
Participants were offered a survey on Toledo’s Recovery Plan to return to the city with their suggestions by August 31. It is unclear by the information provided when the city will make its decision on the distribution of funds.