116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Working together, the governments of Cedar Rapids and Linn County soon will seek proposals for spending a combined $14 million in federal pandemic relief aid on human and social service needs.
On Wednesday, the two local governments will launch an online request-for-proposals process at cr-linnarpa.org for organizations to apply for a share of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The deadline to apply is noon Jan. 7.
“We have to try to meet the needs of all of our residents, especially those who are disproportionately impacted by these two disasters,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s derecho.
The Cedar Rapids City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on approving $3 million of its overall $28 million share of federal aid toward the funding pool.
Hart said city and Linn County staff will review the proposals submitted and collaborate on projects that are within the city of Cedar Rapids. Funding recommendations are expected to be presented to the council by the end of February 2022.
“We really appreciate the ongoing collaboration with the county and our nonprofit communities to really do everything we can to meet the needs of our community,” Hart said. “We are facing unprecedented times with the pandemic and the derecho, and it's really only through these types of partnerships that we can leverage the funding that's available.”
Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said the county will put $11 million of its overall $44 million share toward this first-round allocation.
A total $5.5 million will fund water and sewer investments, and the other half of this initial allocation will support public health uses and addressing the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 such as virus contact-tracing and vaccinations, food assistance, rent and utility aid and eviction prevention, Walker said.
“At the end of the day, these dollars belong to the people, so we should co-create people-oriented solutions to meet their needs and make our community better,” Walker said.
Eligible applicants for county funding include nonprofits, businesses, cities, schools and county departments, Walker said. Nonprofits with a religious affiliation must serve the overall public to qualify.
All grant recipients must have a unique entity identifier from the federal government, or SAM number, by the time of grant award to receive federal funding, though this is not required to submit an application. Entities without this number may visit sam.gov for more information.
With this partnership, applicants need to apply only once using the joint application. The application will be routed to either the city or Linn County as appropriate for review, Walker said.
As Walker mentioned, cities are eligible to apply for federal relief fund provided through the county. The city of Cedar Rapids, for instance, could apply for funds for projects such as a Flood Control System segment — a possibility that has come up in discussions over city-county collaboration.
Tensions have come up in the past between the elected bodies, one reason being that the county has not contributed funding for flood control though the system would protect county buildings including the courthouse and jail.
“We collaborated to make this easier for groups within our community to apply,” Walker told The Gazette. “And we certainly plan to collaborate with the city if there are any projects they have that would be of joint interest.”
Cedar Rapids has already allocated much of its federal funding.
The council has committed $10.2 million to two west side flood control projects and up to $750,000 toward a grant program for nonprofits that lost out on hotel-motel funds as the city halted those payments in fiscal 2021.
Additionally, the city has contributed $1 million toward the PATCH program administered by local not-for-profits to fund repairs for homes damaged by the derecho. That commitment, plus this $3 million allocation, is part of an overall $5.5 million that the city will dedicate to affordable housing and social services, Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt told The Gazette.
Hart said the city also will look to spend $1.5 million to buy and rehabilitate the former Colonial Centre at 1500 Second Ave. SE into affordable housing.
The City Planning Commission in July voted against recommending rezoning the property for public use following pushback from some Wellington Heights residents. Some opposed city plans to turn the vacant building into a community resource center and emergency shelter out of concern it would bring more homeless people to the neighborhood without proper services.
However, the county is using some of its federal funds to buy a 16,200-square-foot building at 1017 12th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids from Alliant Energy as a permanent homeless overflow shelter while phasing out the Fillmore building.
With that project underway, Pratt said the city is not looking to use any part of the former Colonial Centre as a shelter. The number of housing units is yet undecided, but Pratt said there would likely be over 20 units created.
Pratt said the city still is pursuing two relief grants that would contribute a total of $2.6 million more to the project. City staff are “working diligently” to secure the building before an option to purchase expires at the end of the year.
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