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 set 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 COVID-19 response, this new round of ARPA funding can be used by the City to assist households, small businesses, nonprofits and industries negatively impacted economically by the pandemic. The City can also use Rescue Plan Act funds to invest in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.
Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Council member Rebecka Monez have both held public forums to hear how the community thinks the funding should be spent, and Nosrati will host two meetings for District 3 constituents to share their views on Wednesday and Sunday.
“I think that every dollar we spend should be spent based on some sort of grassroots initiative. Someone, a member of the public, telling us that there’s an opportunity to make their space better,” Nosrati said. “It’s felt like most of the time [the Council] already has its decisions made. Like we already know conceptually how we are going to spend the money, and we’re not doing enough to engage with the public.”
The Council has already spent ARPA funds to help with staffing shortages in public safety and other City departments, incentivize locals to shop and eat local via the RAD Card program and, most recently, to create a business development and assistance program.
With a mandated expenditure deadline for the ARPA funds of Dec. 31, 2024, the City has to start making plans for the remainder of the balance.
During Monez’s public forums at the end of January, community members offered up ideas like expanding high-speed internet, increasing bus transportation for school kids and even creating a program through a local credit union to leverage ARPA funds for car loans, especially for individuals who wouldn’t qualify for low-interest traditional loans.
Monthly payments for low-income families were also suggested, as well as more high-speed internet access, mobile health clinics and additional services to help the city’s homeless population.
In speaking with constituents so far, Nosrati said many people aren’t even sure where to begin with ideas for such a large amount of money — the exact reason these meetings are so important.
There are some ideas, like lighting up the City’s parks, that he hopes can come to fruition using ARPA funds. As far as other uses, like helping new entrepreneurs or making business easier for food trucks, he’s all ears.
“If you give someone a blank canvas and they’re not a painter, it’s a very intimidating thing. If you show them examples of things this money can be used for, it becomes easier. That’s why I like to just throw things out there,” Nosrati said. “Now that we have this extra money, let’s align it with what the people want to see.”
The 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. Sunday in the Raley’s Event Center (2900 Geer Rd.). For more information, call 209-668-5540.