Bloomington City Council Passes COVID-19 Community Investment Fund, Supports Federal Union Act

Bloomington City Council has agreed to pass a COVID-19 recovery investment fund and support federal legislation offering increased protections for unions as well as review of an investigation into the quality of life of the city.

ARP Coronavirus Local Fiscal Stimulus Fund Disbursement Plans

The council voted unanimously to adopt a community investment plan, which details the allocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to local projects and organizations.

Mayor John Hamilton said the plan focuses on recovering from the pandemic and in particular helping communities disproportionately affected. He said the city’s main fundraising goals are sustainability, inclusion and equity.

According to the plan, the city wants to focus funds on four broad categories: income replacement, housing insecurity, economic recovery and public infrastructure.

Regarding the local economy. The city will fund several organizations and projects totaling approximately $3.3 million in 2021. The disbursement of funding includes:

  • A $250,000 grant to the Bloomington Housing Authority to create more affordable housing options.

  • A $1,200,000 grant to the Housing Insecurity Group aimed at helping more and more people experiencing housing insecurity.

  • $200,000 to support a new Landlord Risk Mitigation Fund to increase landlord participation in programs for tenants facing housing insecurity.

  • $150,000 for inclusive job training and job growth through various local groups for underemployed categories of workers.

  • $175,000 for stimulus grants to local arts and culture groups for multiple improvements.

  • $550,000 to fund deferred maintenance of the Waldron to reintroduce it as a community arts venue and help re-establish arts organizations.

  • $50,000 to assess a potential new downtown performing arts facility.

The city will invest resources in the following infrastructure improvement programs:

  • $700,000, offered as a loan/credit program to the City of Bloomington Utilities, for a program to identify and inventory all lead-based service lines and prepare a replacement.

  • $75,000 to advance Digital Equity Strategic Plan goals, including expanding public Wi-Fi access in city parks.

The city has not currently received any requests for income replacement funding or to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on low-income families and communities of color.

The council established the ARP Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund on June 16 to use federal government funds in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community.

Bloomington will receive two tranches of emergency funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for an estimated total of $22.1 million. The city received its first award on May 20 for about $11 million and will receive the remaining amount in 2022.

Support for the law on the protection of the right to organize

The council unanimously passed a resolution urging the U.S. Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which includes protections for workers connected to unions and their employers.

Jerry Sutherlin, Southern Indiana Area Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO President, said the law is intended to make it easier for workers to form unions and defend themselves against their employers. The law, if passed, could overturn state right-to-work laws, which make it harder for workers to join or form a union, and make it difficult for companies to fight unions.

Council member Susan Sandberg sponsored the resolution and was co-sponsored by all other council members. Sandberg said this law encourages everyone to take a look at the reforms and will have an effect on the local workforce.

“Bloomington has certainly had a rich history of labor support,” Sandberg said. “It’s very, very important for us to support this act.”

City of Bloomington Quality of Life Survey Data

In a 2021 City of Bloomington survey released to residents, Damema Mann, National Research Center and Director of National Engagement at Polco, said Bloomington residents reported having a very high quality of life.

Residents have largely rated the city positively as a place to live and visit. According to residents, the best aspects of living in Bloomington include parks and green spaces, a sense of community, entertainment and accessibility, according to survey data.

According to the data, six out of ten residents rated positively that the city is welcoming to all residents and attracts and respects people from diverse backgrounds.

Residents’ perception of security services, including fire and emergency medical services, was largely positive. However, positive ratings for police services have dropped from 83% to 60% since 2019, the lowest rating since the question began being asked in 2017. Positive ratings for residents’ interaction with police fell to 42% and positive crime prevention ratings fell to 54%. .

Residents voiced their concerns in the survey about housing and affordability. According to the data, satisfaction ratings regarding the cost of living, the variety of housing options, and the availability of affordable housing options have declined.

Homelessness was also identified as a major challenge for the city, and residents largely agreed they support supported housing for people experiencing homelessness, the data shows.

Residents said their least favorite things about Bloomington were affordable housing at 10% and homelessness at 29%, the data showed.

Jill E. Washington