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Council delays vote on ARPA funds for economic development

But OKs money for COVID contact tracing and for administering the $43.1 million federal grant.

Evanston’s City Council delayed action Monday night on three proposals for funding economic development activities with American Rescue Act funds while approving two other projects.

In a special meeting that lasted past 11 p.m., the Council agreed to set aside $900,000 of the $43.1 million in ARPA funds for grant management, compliance and reporting — essentially to make sure the city doesn’t run afoul of the complex rules for spending the federal money.

Sarah Flax.

Sarah Flax, the city’s housing and grants manager, said the compliance funding was less than what the city ended up spending a decade ago to administer its last major federal grant program, the $18 million NSP2 housing grant.

Council members also agreed to spend $575,000 on public health efforts for contact tracing and other activities tied to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic that triggered Congressional action to provide the ARPA funds in the first place.

The Council also heard appeals from leaders of several mental health agencies to increase preliminary allocation of $4 million of ARPA funds for mental health programs, but took no action on that request.

The economic development projects that were referred back to the Economic Development Committee for further review include a proposed $1 million grant to fund The Aux, planned base for a group of mostly black-owned businesses that hope to focus on community wellness, $440,000 for Orrington Avenue and Chicago Avenue streetscape improvement projects and $250,000 in storefront modernization program funds targeted to enhance outdoor dining.

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