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Mayor Prince lays out plan for use of federal funds

The city of Gary is slated to receive $80.3 million through the American Rescue Plan, and Mayor Jerome Prince last week unveiled how his administration wants to spend the funds. 

During an appearance at a meeting of the Gary Chamber of Commerce, Prince listed several priorities for the first half of the allotment of the funds.

The mayor is requesting $10.15 million be deposited in the city’s general fund to make up for revenue lost during the previous year.

Six million is allotted for pension and pay for employees, with $3 million going to the pension fund and $3 million for essential workers. 

He also wants to use $25 million to support several programs, including improving the city’s broadband infrastructure and utilizing $750,000 for the city’s Guaranteed Income Validation Program, Give, and $200,000 for a summer youth program.

The mayor is also asking for $13.6 million to repair and upgrade the city’s sewer system.

The ARP funds will allow the city to use its non-federal dollars to fund other city expenditures to invest in general services and public safety.

The City Council will have the final say on how the funds will be spent. To achieve this, the Council’s Ways and Means Committee is seeking input from residents regarding how the money should be spent.

Council President William Godwin said he anticipates the Council will take final action on the proposal within two months.

During the State of the City address, Mayor Prince said the city is working with the Gary Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity to demolish abandoned structures and rehab vacant parcels of land.

The Gary Housing Authority demolished vacant buildings in the five and six hundred blocks of Broadway, and there are plans to redevelop the area.

The city has demolished 40 properties this year and will demolish 15 in October.

As the administration continues its efforts to eradicate blight in the city, the city is acquiring more than 100 properties through Lake County property tax sales. Those properties will be offered to residents via the Re-Imagine Gary Rehab One, Get Two Free pilot program.

The mayor is requesting that $150,000 go towards the city’s homeownership program and $50,000 to the commercial rental assistance program.

The Gary Health Department had two COVID-19 locations, one at Holy Angels and the other at Roosevelt High School.

The city received $2.3 million in COVID-19 funds through a Community Development Block Grant and $2 million in additional funding through an Emergency Solutions Grant to be used for rental assistance and food pantry programs.

Prince is seeking $2 million in ARP funds to expand the city’s vaccination programs, COVID testing, contact tracing and public health monitoring.

Funds are being proposed for a business micro-loan program, and job retraining and tuition assistance at a total cost of $250,000.

The mayor said that his team was careful to comply with the guidelines for how the funds are to be used. He said he looked forward to working with the City Council on the plan in the coming weeks.

Prince said his administration has shared the plan with Council leadership and will discuss further details in future meetings. The Council will decide whether to accept the plans as it is presented or make amendments to it.

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