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American Rescue Plan funding begins flowing into Ozarks community projects

Chloe O'Neill
For its meeting on July 11, 2022, Springfield City Council scheduled its first reading of bills linked to local projects funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Springfield-area leaders say federal funding from the American Rescue Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Starting with its July 11 meeting, Springfield City Council will make decisions about how to use tens of millions of dollars in American Rescue Plan money. The city got the funding as part of Congress’s $1.9 trillion relief package passed 16 months ago.

Other local governments are going through a similar process. For example, Greene County got $57 million, while Springfield’s share is $40 million.

City Councilman Matt Simpson headed up a committee charged with recommending where the funds should go.

"We knew from when we first opened up applications that there are more good ideas in our community to use this money than we had money to use,” Simpson told KSMU.

Starting last year, Springfield got in more than 50 asks totaling at least $210 million. Greene County got at least $80 million dollars' worth of requests. Advocates’ wish lists included priorities like affordable housing, mental health and education.

Brandy Harris is CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield. Her group is one of many applying for Rescue Plan funding.

“For about the last 20 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield has realized there is a significant gap in services for middle and high school students regarding before- and after-school care. I think that was brought to our attention a little bit more during the pandemic,” Harris said.

The club wants to build a large facility on Springfield’s Grant Avenue Parkway. Part of their plans include providing wholesome services for local teens and linking them up with after-school jobs.

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Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield
A rendering shows what a big new Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield facility could look like. The nonprofit is seeking $2 million of Springfield's American Rescue Plan Act allocation to help fund the project.

Last month, Greene County Commissioners approved a first round of Rescue Plan funding for 10 projects, totaling $23 million. Boys & Girls Clubs got $2 million.

A few days ago, Springfield released its own list of 16 recommended projects totaling $31.4 million. Boys & Girls Clubs could get $2 million more from the city. The rest of their project would be funded by donations.

Springfield city ordinances for the recommended projects get their first reading at the July 11 council meeting before coming up for a vote later this summer.

Meanwhile, Greene County is currently vetting small business applications for another round of Rescue Plan funding.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.