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Peoria City Council approves COVID relief funds for 2 community organizations

Robert Lawton
Wikimedia Commons

The Peoria City Council has allocated around $1.2 million in new COVID-related grants, as the U.S. reaches two years since the first reported case of the coronavirus.

Community Development Director Joe Dulin said the funds are the remaining amount allocated to Peoria in the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

“If you recall back in our budget, we talked about the fact we received additional coronavirus relief funds through the CDBG program,” said City Manager Patrick Urich. “These were specific program dollars that we used a portion of those in 2020, (which) we gave to businesses and small businesses when we granted those dollars out. It had to be directly related to COVID services.”

Dulin said the projects fit under the eligible expenses by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the projects will avoid the grant deadline — which Dulin suggested was mid-2023 during Tuesday night's city council meeting.

Now in 2022, two agencies will see similar grants to improve workforce development and public green spaces.

The first grant project approved is $680,000 to Phoenix Community Development Services.

“Phoenix is a fantastic partner in the city of Peoria,” Dulin said. “They’re one of the agencies we often rely on when we have housing issues for some of our most unfortunate residents in Peoria. This is a really important project to bring forward because it is the next piece in not only providing affordable housing for residents but also providing jobs and training.”

Phoenix President and Chief Executive Officer Christine Kahl said the project has been envisioned for some time.

“Prior to COVID, we already had a 75% unemployment rate among (the homeless population). Once COVID came, we saw more than a 90% unemployment rate along with that population. Obviously, a living wage is really critical to maintaining housing long term and ending homelessness,” Kahl told council members.

Some of the money will go toward starting a café/restaurant allowing homeless residents to train in the food industry, obtain certification and find employment.

“For our population, a substantial number of them have mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. So, the model also calls for a supportive employment approach in which it’s a lot more intensive, including following them into private employment out on the market,” she said.

The council will hear a full presentation from Phoenix Community Development Services next month.

The second agency receiving funding is the Peoria Park District with a total of $600,000 going toward rehabilitation of Trewyn Park.

“People use that park in lots of different ways and so (to) be able to bring a shelter to that park (and) be able to support and encourage quality social activity in that space is something, again we appreciate your willingness to collaborate with us in order to do that,” Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Emily Cahill told council members.

Cahill said collaboration will bring vitality to the city. Some of the funds will contribute to a new playground.

“Moving the basketball court — every person I think that I talked to about Trewyn Park has a story about being forced to chase the basketball down the hill,” Cahill said. “I’m not sure why that was the original strategy for that basketball court, but we look forward to putting it on a (flat) part of the park. So little kids everywhere don’t have to chase the ball for their older siblings anymore.”

While introducing Cahill, Dulin noted the revamped space also will be a safe option for residents to stay active during the pandemic.

Since Jan. 13, 2020, when the first reported case of COVID-19 reached the United States, there have been 842,141 reported deaths. Currently, the United States is 63% fully vaccinated, or about 207 million people. Illinois’ population is reportedly 64% fully vaccinated.

Brady started as WCBU's Audio Operations Coordinator in 2022. Brady is a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.