ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke City Council met Monday in person for the first time in months.
One of the biggest items discussed was what to do with more than $7 million worth of COVID-19 relief funding.
A team of dozens of community members came up with some key recommendations on where that money should be distributed to help the Star City get back on its feet.
“I think it’s a good plan, I’m pleased with the way it came together with citizens, we had about 36 citizens that the majority of them showed up for every meeting,” Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said.
The Star City Strong Recovery Fund Task Force came up with four main areas for allocating the funding:
- At least $1.2 million is recommended for community health. It would be used for efforts like increased testing, PPE for businesses and mental health services, which have seen a huge spike in patients.
- At least $1.2 million is recommended for youth and education. That would go towards things like providing access to recreation and expanding broadband and internet access.
- At least $2.5 million is recommended for the economy. That money would be used for things like job training for displaced workers, reopening marketing and tourism and small businesses.
- At least $2 million is recommended for a safety net. That would help nonprofits with increased demand and assisting with basic needs like child care, food access and housing issues.
“Looking for ways that we can provide for not only relief for recovery, but within that build some resilience so that what we’re doing through recovery is sustainable,” Vice-Mayor Joe Cobb said.
This money has to be spent by the end of the year. The group aimed to not just get back to a pre-pandemic way of life, but move forward and build upon recent calls for equity.
“We’ve focused on helping the most vulnerable in our community and that’s a good thing, and small businesses so I was very pleased with it,” Lea said.
The group pulled the plan together in about a month, and Cobb said that’s a testament to the talents of the people of Roanoke.
“Government sometimes is a very slow process and to see our ability to do something quickly shows that we’re agile when we need to be,” Cobb said.