With Strong Financial Position, Bakersfield Seeks Transformative Change With Millions of Federal Funds | New
The city of Bakersfield has big plans for $ 94.5 million it will receive as part of a federal coronavirus stimulus package.
Awarded under the US $ 1.9 trillion bailout act, the money is intended to stimulate recovery in cities that have suffered economically during the coronavirus pandemic. But thanks to Measure N, or the Public Safety and Vital Services Measure, Bakersfield is emerging from the pandemic in a relatively strong financial position.
The additional federal funding therefore allows city leaders to tackle the kinds of issues that have long been set aside for more imminent crises.
With $ 33.2 million earmarked for investment in underprivileged communities and an additional $ 26 million earmarked for affordable housing and homelessness, the city sees federal funding as a rare opportunity to make a real difference. difference against some of Bakersfield’s more endemic problems.
âThis really represents a type of investment that is unique in a generation from outside funding that will take a long time for the city to allocate,â said city manager Christian Clegg. âWith over $ 51 million in total spent on these qualified census tracts and our urban neighborhoods, this is going to be a game-changer for the type of investment we see in these neighborhoods. “
This week, the city released its framework for spending ARPA funds. Initial priorities include expanding the Brundage Lane Navigation Center, partnering with Kern County to place mental health professionals with officers from the Bakersfield Police Department, and creating safe routes to schools, parks and neighborhoods with little infrastructure.
âThis is the biggest coordinated investment in a long time,â Clegg said, noting that the city aims to combine ARPA projects with several other initiatives. âWe are focusing and aligning our efforts in a way that really changes the results instead of just scratching the surface. “
One of the more ambitious goals in the city’s spending plan is around $ 19 million for business and community revitalization in long-overlooked neighborhoods. Part of the money is earmarked for business development loans and workforce training programs.
The city hopes that by making it easier to open businesses in areas they previously avoided, a new economic ecosystem can be formed.
“If a new business opens in an underprivileged community, it’s likely that another business will move next door or close by,” said Troy Hightower, director of TDH Associates International, a consulting firm that helps government and businesses in economic development. . âThey are going to hire people from the community. It will help these households. This is what makes it transformative. Now you are bringing economic benefits to the community. It is not a wish. It’s proven. It works.”
He encouraged the city to leverage ARPA funds with money from other sources, like state or federal grants, to have an even greater impact.
âYou could say it’s basically free money and let’s spend it, and it’s probably common, but I would encourage executives to get some leverage,â he said, â find ways to grow and multiply this money “.
Other funding priorities under the framework include $ 3 million for revitalizing parks in disadvantaged areas and improving water and stormwater infrastructure. Even broadband access receives $ 3 million as part of the city plan.
But now that the city has presented a plan for this funding, it must prove that it can take actionable actions.
âMoney is one thing, but how we actually allocate these resources, how we manage these funds in the future, is another,â said city councilor Andrae Gonzales. “We have a responsibility to be really, really diligent and to make sure that these funds are put to the best use.”
He called the ARPA funding an acceleration of the city’s previous efforts. Some of those efforts, he noted, were largely made possible by Measure N. And while the devil is in the details going forward, he’s optimistic that a transformative change is imminent.
âIt’s a really good time for Bakersfield,â Gonzales said. âIt is time for us to be very proud of the direction we are taking. We are on the right path.
Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.