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Peoria City Council Uses COVID Relief Funds To Avoid Borrowing, End Furloughs

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ROBERT LAWON
/
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The City of Peoria is off the hook for bonds it was going to issue to balance the budget.

That borrowing was approved back in November 2020. But City Manager Patrick Urich said federal COVID-19 relief funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan means the city doesn't need to incur that debt now.

"We're replacing what we were going to issue as working cash bonds with $10 million in federal relief funds we've already received," said Urich.

The city also will spend $301,000 of relief funds to cancel planned furlough days for city employees, originally scheduled through the end of this year as a cost-savings measure.

The city received $23.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds. The city council is still discussing uses for the remaining funds.

Third District Peoria City Council member Tim Riggenbach said some of those funds may be used for a renewed focus on neighborhood stabilization efforts after shots were fired at a graduation party hosted at the East Bluff Community Center last Friday.

"All the protocols they put in place were followed," Riggenbach said of the community center. "This just speaks to the anxiety in many of our neighborhoods right now."

No one was injured in that incident.

Three homicides unrelated to the community center shots-fired incident were reported in Peoria last week, bringing the number in the city to 12 this year. Allen Schimmelpfennig, 28, was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the March disappearance and death of 32-year-old Gabriel Cook of Marquette Heights.

Andre Allen, 4th District Peoria City Council member, said the recent uptick in violence is cause for concern as the city heads into summer. One of last week's reported homicides was in Allen's district.

"Put the guns down. Find different ways to resolve your issues," Allen said. "Because we're burying our young people too early, and they have so much to live for."

In past years, the city traditionally sees an increase in violent crime during the warmer months.

Riggenbach said he and Mayor Rita Ali are meeting with police and community center leadership to discuss the incident and paths forward.

At-Large City Council member Beth Jensen suggested the city also might look at how to use COVID relief funding to pay down pension debt. Urich said it was his understanding the funds could be used to help make "normal" pension payments, but not an extraordinary payment above and beyond what the city might pay down in an average year.

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