During the thick of the pandemic, among the issues that troubled Coralville Mayor Meghann Foster and other community leaders was figuring out how to make up for lost revenue while also trying to maintain city services many residents relied on.
“We were very concerned with the impact that the pandemic was having on our more vulnerable community members and our community members that are on the margins,” she said. “It’s been well documented that the folks that were struggling the most were those individuals in some challenging situations.”
A solution for the eastern Iowa city of about 23,000 came when President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) on March 11, 2021. The nearly $2 trillion federal stimulus bill provided aid to millions of Americans either directly or by funding various government programs. The city of Coralville received about $3.3 million in ARPA funds.
“ARPA funding was a lifeline,” Foster said. “Not only were we able to restore the revenue loss we saw in our community, we were able to restore programming, we were able to restore staffing, we were also able to make historic investments in the social structure of our community.”
Foster said they used some of the money to support the Coralville Community Food Pantry’s move to a larger space. The pantry is open to any Coralville or Tiffin resident and the average household that visits the pantry comes twice a month and selects 55 pounds of food per visit.
“As we know, food insecurity is something that Iowans across the state are struggling with, but we are really seeing that in Coralville as well,” she said.
Foster shared these stories during a Wednesday press conference to highlight the launch of IowaAtWork.com, a new website that uses federal and state data to automatically update whenever ARPA-funded projects are announced in Iowa. There is also an accompanying Iowa At Work Report highlighting the positive impacts of federal investments.
The report and website are a collaboration between AFSCME Council 61, the AFL-CIO, Citizen Action Network, Common Good Iowa, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, the Iowa Farmers Union, the Iowa Federation of Labor, the Iowa State Education Association, Progress Iowa, and RuralOrganizing.org.
So far, IowaAtWork.com shows that 2,883 projects—at a cost of about $11.8 billion—have been funded across the Hawkeye State. Categories of projects include broadband, child care, education, environment, health, transportation, and more.
Iowa House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, a Democrat from Windsor Heights, also spoke at the press conference. She shared how ARPA funds helped her community of about 5,200 residents.
“Here in Windsor Heights, we’ve been able to get a new fire truck and it’s thanks to funding from the Biden administration,” she said. “It’s really hard to grasp … on the billions of dollars level, so when you can see granularly how it can help a district in the community, I know that my neighbors will feel more confident that they’re going to get the service that they need as quickly as they can with the highest equipment that they need.”
While praising the work the Biden administration has done to pass legislation that actually helps people, Konfrst also took time to criticize Gov. Kim Reynolds for taking credit for ARPA-funded projects despite famously calling the bill a “blue-state bailout.”
“She’s taken credit time after time for the program over and over again and Iowans see through this,” Konfrst said. “One of the most egregious examples is the broadband support that the Biden administration is providing to the state, and it’s critical for small-town business and small communities and Biden got it done.”
AT A GLANCE:
Since it was signed into law by President Joe Biden, the American Rescue Plan Act invested nearly $12 billion into Iowa and funded 2,883 projects, according to IowaAtWork.com.
Here is a breakdown of some of those dollars were spent and what they funded:
- Broadband: 39 projects, $241 million
- Child care: 21 projects, $382 million
- Education: 158 projects, $1.5 billion
- Environment: 524 projects, nearly $5 billion
- Health: 343 projects $1.3 billion
- Transportation: 559 projects $1.3 billion
- Other: 1,239 projects, nearly $2 billion
by Ty Rushing
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