116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids will award $3 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to 14 affordable housing and social service projects that will create new housing, expand food access, promote youth engagement and support immigrants.
The funding decision comes from a partnership between the city and Linn County to use some of the American Rescue Plan funds to support affordable housing and social service projects that benefit low-income and socially vulnerable populations disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the August 2020 derecho.
The first-round allocation, approved Tuesday by the Cedar Rapids City Council, only begins to fill the existing needs. The city and county received 105 applications asking for just over $70 million through this joint process, Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said.
Additional awards are still to come.
Linn County supervisors are expected to award some ARPA funds as part of the joint process in March, and the city and county will make a second round of allocations in May or June.
The city is to receive $28 million in ARPA funds, with Linn County receiving $44 million.
In the first round of allocations, Cedar Rapids earmarked $5.1 million for west-side flood control, $1 million for the PATCH home-repair program, up to $750,000 for nonprofits that lost hotel-motel tax funds during the pandemic and $585,000 for workforce initiatives, including tuition grants with Kirkwood Community College.
Here are the affordable housing and social service projects the city funded Tuesday:
Discovery Living: $50,000 toward adding five units to group homes in Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha. $100,000 was requested.
HACAP: $150,000 for four rental units for individuals who are hard to house. $400,000 was requested. “We are hopeful that the county will fund some of that, or we could also fund the rest of that in the second round,” Pratt said.
Neighborhood Finance Corp. Cedar Rapids: $250,000 for housing loans (the amount requested) and $391,445 (of $758,750 requested) for energy-efficiency upgrades to homes. The organization offers partially forgivable home improvement loans in targeted neighborhoods.
“This organization had a five-year plan to become self-sufficient from an operational perspective, but because of the impacts (the pandemic and derecho), they did not have the number of loans needed to hit that target,” Pratt said. “But they have a clear plan on getting that, so this is just that remaining gap.”
The portion for energy-efficiency loans will help property owners with upgrades, which is in line with the city’s Community Climate Action Plan, Pratt said.
She added the proposal was countywide, so the city’s contribution is intended to fund Cedar Rapids properties with the hope the county may fund the rest to expand the program beyond the city limits.
Hope Community Development Association: $80,000 to rehabilitate two homes. “They not only rehab to create affordable housing within our community, but they also employ people who have been recently incarcerated, so giving them a skill set and a positive work record is wonderful for them,” Pratt said.
Watts Group: $250,000 to the Coralville developer of NewBo Lofts, two 55-unit buildings at 455 16th Ave. SE, for 10 affordable housing units to ensure “we have different price points down in the NewBo area because that is building out quickly,” Pratt said. $750,000 requested.
Other larger housing projects were not recommended at this time because the state will allocate nearly $57 million of federal Community Development Block Grant disaster funds for housing projects and other disaster mitigation activities.
About $45.5 million of that total is to be used in Linn County, according to the city. The Iowa Economic Development Authority will allocate funds directly to Cedar Rapids.
Pratt said Cedar Rapids will know before the next round of ARPA allocations if some of those projects will be eligible for those block grant funds.
“This is all in an effort to make sure we’re maximizing all of our resources and getting things in the right bucket for getting our work done,” Pratt said.
The city and county ranked six projects high on both their lists and agreed to each separately fund three organizations.
Cedar Rapids will fund Feed Iowa First’s $112,000 project to improve food access infrastructure and Tanager Place’s $154,000 request for free mental health tool kits and events.
The city also will provide $91,437 for the Intercultural Center of Iowa’s Kazi Project as a continuation of the Nordstrom “earn and learn” pilot program.
The program provides training, English as a Second Language courses and other resources to employees from immigrant and refugee communities. The program has led to a 75 percent retention rate, higher than typical for those communities, Pratt said.
The three requests Linn County is to fund, pending approval by supervisors, are $250,000 to HACAP for a freezer/cooler expansion; $23,980 to Together We Achieve for food box giveaways; and $31,870 to United We March Forward’s “Bridging the Gap” project to improve technology and infrastructure.
Boys & Girls Club: Half of the nonprofit’s $1.5 million request for a new facility in the Wellington Heights neighborhood, in hopes the county will pay the other half, Pratt said.
Healthiest State Initiative: $20,000 to Make It OK campaign to support mental health access.
Tanager Place: $75,000 for the organization’s LGBTQ Youth Center.
Willis Dady: $559,703 for the homeless services agency’s Employment Hub, a renovation of the historic McLanahan building, 800 First Ave. NW, to provide employment for the near-homeless population. “We’re very excited to bring in kind of the last dollars to get that across the finish line,” Pratt said.
Young Parents Network: $66,415 for an Afghan immigrant pilot program to support those resettling in Cedar Rapids after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan at U.S. troop withdrawal.
“While we certainly overall did not want to create new programs if there's not an ongoing funding source, this was one of them that we knew it was a critical need right now,” Pratt said. “There's an influx of Afghan immigrants, so we feel confident that this two- or three-year period will get us across the major critical period.”
These projects are the first to emerge as the result of the joint ARPA application process that ran from Oct. 27 to Jan. 7.
Organizations receiving funding will enter into administrative agreements to ensure the money is used in line with the federal guidelines, Pratt said.
“Really, I'm grateful for our collaboration and think that it will be well-served in the end,” council member Ann Poe said.
Council member Ashley Vanorny said she looked forward to ongoing conversations with the second round of allocations to help other organizations.
“There are so many people that still need to be helped,” Vanorny said. “It's not going to go as far as we need to really help everybody get past COVID recovery and derecho recovery and everything that's happened concurrently to cause trauma in our community, but I appreciate this effort.”
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