NORFOLK, Va. — $154 million was allocated for the City of Norfolk through the American Rescue Plan Act, but with so much at stake, dividing it up will not be an easy job. Norfolk residents spoke to city council members Thursday night on how they believe the money should be spent.
That meeting got heated, with residents walking out after city leaders said the crowd would be breaking into small groups instead of presenting their ideas altogether.
"Our purpose here tonight is to listen to what you have to say. I am not concerned with what the city manager has proposed. We are not going to discuss what you saw the city manager propose," Councilwoman Mamie Johnson said. "Pay no attention to the timelines and deadlines that were initially set. What that means is you have even more time to tell us what you want and what your needs are."
With the $154 million the city was given, residents believe the money should go towards mental health services for youth, non-profit organizations to curb gun violence, recreational centers and eliminating food deserts.
"Recreation centers need to be open; Stop the Violence needs to be a priority; [the] library needs to be open," one Norfolk resident said.
"Grassroots need more funding to help end gun violence and violence prevention," another resident said.
"There is a serious issue with homelessness in the City of Norfolk," another resident said during the meeting.
Councilwoman Andria McClellan says council is actively listening to the feedback.
"There are a lot of amazing non-profits out there helping our youth, helping with recidivism, mental health, childcare, so I’m really excited about making sure that we’re funding our non-profits to help our citizens. This is the American Rescue Plan Act, and we should be using it to rescue our people to help them thrive, come out of this pandemic stronger than ever," McClellan said.
The city can spend the money on a range of things, ranging from economic support and assistance for negatively impacted residents and businesses, to capital investments and public health emergencies.
The city manager put forth several proposals of how the funding can be spent.
"Absolutely zero of those proposals are set in stone. This was a very preliminary proposal. The intent was that the city manager wanted to demonstrate to council ways that we can use these funds," said Greg Patrick, the director of Budget & Strategic Planning for the City of Norfolk.
There will be other opportunities for Norfolk residents to voice their opinions. On December 14, residents will be able to speak before the entire city council and the mayor.
The $154 million has to be accounted for by 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
Residents can give their feedback or input on how the $154 million should be allocated on the city's website.