The $76 million in American Rescue Plan funds is motivating directors of local organizations to meet with Mayor Joe Schember.
The mayor says he has almost three meetings a day, and even more are scheduled. His main focus for the funds?
“To find ways the people most impacted by COVID-19,” Schember said, “which is the minority population, and what I like to do is move them to a higher level.”
Some directors of community centers said they feel confident the city will allocate funds to them.
“In our conversations, it’s going in the right direction, because we really don’t know the parts of funds they’re going to be allocating to,” said Shantel Hilliard, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Center.
Hillard hopes using 10 pecent of the money for career development, workforce, and health care would build a future for the younger generation and uplift the underserved population.
Meanwhile, the Mercy Center for Women has been working to expand the Holy Rosary Project that will house women and children running away from domestic situations.
Jennie Hagerty, the director of the center, said since the pandemic, there have been 89 domestic situations. She hopes the center makes it to the list of those receiving funds.
“These women and children are fleeing very difficult situations,” Hagerty said, “whether it’s domestic violence or recovering from addiction or they’ve become homeless.”
Both directors said they’re going to continue to meet with the mayor until their voices are heard, and the mayor will continue to meet with them and others.
Where do regular people think the money should go?
From fixing roads to repairing run-down houses, people think the city could use improvements.
“I don’t what them to tear all of them down,” said Karen Kalivoda, a resident of Erie. “I think a lot of people want to stay in their neighborhoods. We could offer some assistance, some grant money to repair their homes.”
Kalivoda said some of the new homes on E. 21st and E. 13th are well maintained. But areas of E. 6th and E. 26th really need help.
“It hurts the city, driving through there,” Kalivoda said. “Some of those look pretty bad and leave a poor impression.”
While American Rescue Plan money is aimed at delivering immediate relief to American workers and rescuing the economy, some people think the money could be used in other ways to help the area, such as making downtown safer.
“You walk from Liberty Park, you walk to Dobbins Landing,” said Beth Wygant, another resident of Erie, “but you need that outside place to feel safe to just sit there and walk and enjoy the area, without feeling it’s not a safe place.”
Others see the money improving walkways and paths.
“Anything that can be done to improve mobility outside,” said Julia Reichard, who visits frequently from Virginia. “And especially during the season of COVID, all times a year. I think that’s really worth the investment.”
She says most other cities she has visited have better accessibility to their walkways.
Other ideas we heard from Erie residents include improving transportation and repairing and updating the Erie Zoo and Presque Isle State Park.
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