Lancaster city is launching a new effort to get public feedback on how the city’s $39.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds should be used, Mayor Danene Sorace announced Monday.
Residents can learn more about ARPA funds and give feedback on what is most important to them through Engage Lancaster at engage.cityoflancasterpa.com/en/projects/american-rescue-plan, the city said in a news release. This first feedback phase will remain open through Oct. 30.
Participants can provide their feedback by marking “thumbs up” to five funding areas that are most important to them out of 22 total. Participants can also leave comments on any of the options, or provide ideas of their own that aren’t listed.
Options include utility payment assistance, creating housing for displaced tenants, homelessness support, job training, food assistance, small business assistance, vaccination programs, affordable housing, drug overdose and prevention programs, rent and mortgage assistance; insulating homes for greater energy efficiency and others.
“This once-in-a-generation investment must be made with great care and thought about what is most needed in our specific community, with transparency and through engagement with the community about how to invest these public dollars,” Sorace said.
City staff will also conduct outreach at existing events like block parties, neighborhood group meetings and First Friday as well as traditional and digital engagement during the first phase. A full list of events will be available on Engage Lancaster.
Sorace and the city council “will prioritize investments based on research, public input and ranking criteria to be determined in coordination with City Council,” according to the news release. Conversations and deliberations will start at city council meetings in September and October.
ARPA funds can be used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative economic impacts, to replace lost municipal revenue and for water and sewer infrastructure and broadband investments, based on initial guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department, according to the news release. Funds need to be committed by Dec. 31, 2024 and spent by Dec. 31, 2026. Funding decisions will not be made all at once.
Aside from direct funding to local governments, other federal investments are being made to support a wide array of initiatives including rent and utility assistance, education, healthcare, transportation and more, the city said. These funds flow through state and county governments, which provide the bulk of social services in the county.
Lancaster city “is committed to leveraging these other sources of federal and state dollars,” according to the news release.
City officials will continue collecting public input continuously as there will be multiple proposals brought before Council on how to spend ARPA funds, the city said. Residents are encouraged to submit feedback online and attend council meetings to share their input in person.