Upcoming public forums seek COVID relief funding suggestions

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City Council members continue to engage the public on how best to spend Turlock’s COVID relief funds, and District 3 Representative Andrew Nosrati is set to host two public forums this week.

Turlock is expected to receive nearly $16 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds soon. Unlike CARES Act funding, which was intended for local governments to use in the short term for the COVID-19 response, this new round of ARPA funding can be used by the city to help households, small businesses, organizations nonprofits and industries impacted economically by the pandemic. The city can also use bailout law funds to invest in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.

Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Council Member Rebecka Monez have both hosted public forums to hear how the community thinks the funding should be spent, and Nosrati will host two meetings for District 3 voters to share their views. Wednesday and Sunday.

“I think every dollar we spend should be spent on some kind of grassroots initiative. Someone, a member of the public, tells us there is an opportunity to improve their space,” Nosrati said. “It feels like most of the time [the Council] has already made its decisions. As we already conceptually know how we are going to spend the money, and we are not doing enough to engage with the public.

The Council has previously spent ARPA funds to help address staffing shortages in public safety and other city departments, encourage residents to shop and eat local through the RAD Card program, and more recently , to create a business development and assistance program.

With a mandatory spending deadline for ARPA funds of December 31, 2024, the City must begin making plans for the remainder of the balance.

During Monez’s public forums in late January, community members came up with ideas such as expanding high-speed internet, increasing bus transportation for school children, and even creating a program by the through a local credit union to leverage ARPA funds for auto loans, especially for people who would not qualify for traditional low-interest loans.

Monthly payments for low-income families were also suggested, along with higher-speed internet access, mobile health clinics and additional services to help the city’s homeless population.

Speaking with voters so far, Nosrati said many people don’t even know where to start with ideas for such a large sum of money – the exact reason why these meetings are so important.

There are ideas, like lighting up city parks, that he hopes to see come to fruition with ARPA funds. As for other uses, like helping new entrepreneurs or making food truck business easier, it’s all ears.

“If you give someone a blank canvas and they’re not a painter, it’s very intimidating. If you show them examples of things this money can be used for, it becomes easier. That’s why I just like throwing things out there,” Nosrati said. “Now that we have this extra money, let’s align it with what people want to see.”

District 3 Public Forums with Nosrati will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Calvary Baptist Church (700 E. Monte Vista Ave.) and 1 p.m. at Raley’s Event Center (2900 Geer Rd.). For more information, call 209-668-5540.

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