LAFAYETTE, La. — There are still questions about how the $86 million coming to Lafayette Parish and the city can be spent.
According to the Department of Treasury, the money is meant to be spent on public health initiatives related to the pandemic, but there might’ve been some confusion about what that means.
At Thursday night’s meeting, people primarily from Lafayette’s northside expressed concern that their voices were not being heard, and in return, the money could be misspent.
$22 million have been allocated to a handful of projects, dealing with infrastructure in Downtown Lafayette.
Experts also explained a public health need might mean something different based on their location.
Jackson Voss is an economic opportunity policy analyst with the Louisiana Budget Project. He gave a presentation on what the money can and can’t be spent on.
“There are also public health things that preceded the pandemic, and we can use some of this money on those things in those communities,” he said.
Aside from this meeting, another initiative is hoping to bridge the gap between proposed plans and the actual needs of the community. Geoff Daily, a columnist with The Current talked about One Big Project.
“One big project is an effort to amplify the voices of nonprofits across Lafayette Parish so they can be heard in terms of ways they could use the American Rescue Plan act funding... The $86 million that is coming to our city and parish, to actually improve people’s lives,” he said.
He says the conversations between the public and elected officials has been scarce.
“To date, the community has not necessarily been engaged in this process to be able to have their voices heard,” he said. “And we thought it was really important to that nonprofits have a seat at the table, and at least have a chance to have their voice heard in front of the council.”
Voss says it’s not too late to have these conversations about what this money can and can’t pay for.
“We actually don’t have to allocate these dollars until 2024, so if everybody wants to take a minute, I know it's hard to do... Take a minute and find out what makes the most sense,” he said. “There is time to identify those projects and those programs to make sure they get the funding they need.”
He says the funds are meant to primarily respond to pandemic related health emergencies and economic impact, as well as to provide premium payments to eligible workers. It can also be used to make investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. This is all based on preliminary rules established by the Department of Treasury.
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