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Peoria council weighs how to spend remaining $36.8M in ARPA funds

Urich presentation.jpeg
Chris Francis
Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich lays out the Peoria City Council's options for spending its remaining American Rescue Plan funds at a special council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.

“$36 million doesn’t last like it used to,” quipped Peoria City Council Member Andre Allen, summing up a special Tuesday session discussing how the city should spend its remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and revise its 2023 budget.

Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich and Community Development Director Joe Dulin made the case for a draft budget that would account for increased costs due to inflation.

The most obvious hike was on infrastructure spending, with the draft proposing $8.5 million compared with the previously budgeted $5.2 million. Urich cited increased costs of material and labor, as well as prioritizing repairs for key waterfront infrastructure.

Included in the infrastructure spending was violence-reducing measures like “smart” street lighting and surveillance cameras.

Anticipating the pressure that inflation has placed on Peoria’s vulnerable residents, Urich proposed $150,000 for utility assistance. This money would be credited to the Ameren accounts of Peoria residents who are unable to pay for their heating utility in winter 2023.

“Utility costs are one of the biggest drivers of inflation,” Urich said. “We know costs are going up, so we want to use some of this money to help that need.”

Several council members questioned whether $150,000 would be enough.

So far, Peoria has spent $10.3 million of its ARPA funding, with $36.8 million left to go. According to the law passed in 2021, the money must be appropriated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026, or else the remainder is returned to the federal government.

“I have never sat in this chair and seen this much money come into our city,” said council member Chuck Grayeb. “This is not free money. We all pay federal tax dollars, and it’s imperative that we monitor which programs we’re funding to see which are working. We have to be ready to return to Malthusian scarcity.”

Urich will return to the council with an updated budget revision proposal based on the feedback in six to eight weeks.

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Chris Francis is a WCBU correspondent. He joined the station in 2022.