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Posted on: August 31, 2021

Mayor Sheehan, Co-Chairs Michael Whalen & Jahkeen Hoke Present COVID Recovery TaskForce Final Report

Contact: David Galin

Comprehensive Report Is Culmination of Three-Month, Community-Wide Effort to Identify And Maximize Critical Investments, Prioritize Equity, & Build Back Better

“The Task Force strongly recommends funding a limited number of highly-impactful programs that can produce profound results, rather than thinly spreading resources.” – Recovery Task Force

ALBANY, NY – Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and City of Albany COVID Recovery Task Force Co-Chairs Michael Whalen and Jahkeen Hoke today announced the release of the task force’s final report, which lays out priority focus areas for relief funds, as well as recommended strategies and initiatives to assure the entire City benefits from future investments.

The 76-page report is the result of a four-month process that included robust community participation through two public surveys garnering more than 1,000 responses, more than 60 direct meetings with community members and stakeholder groups, and 17 task force and working group meetings, steered by the expertise of a diverse group of 41 volunteer task force members appointed and first convened in April. 

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “When we learned of President Biden’s commitment to helping our city build back better from the unprecedented impact of the COVID crisis, we knew right away we needed a plan to ensure that every resident, business, organization, and neighborhood would benefit. Under the leadership of its two co-chairs, this task force has done that – and more – putting together a concise and strategic course of action. I cannot thank the members of the Task Force, and the community at large, enough for believing and participating in this process. While we have years of work ahead of us, we now have a lens to look through and a way to navigate the path forward to equitably making significant positive impacts in our City with this funding.”

The task force established five working groups to correspond with the impact areas eligible for funding under the American Recuse Plan (ARP), including:

  1. Assistance to Workers and Families through Education/Workforce/Human Services
  2. Assistance to Workers and Families through Housing/Transportation/Community Revitalization
  3. Small Business Support
  4. Supporting the Public Health Response, and
  5. Recovery of the Tourism, Travel, Arts and Hospitality sectors

These working groups conducted a holistic needs assessment for every area of focus and through that process developed Impact Areas and programmatic recommendations for how the ARP funds could be best spent to meet the most acute needs. The task force was not asked to specifically line out how and where dollars should be spent, but rather to create a suggested framework for evaluating projects, programs, and proposals, that could be implemented for years to come.

A key finding of the report is funding a limited number of high-impact programs that can produce profound results rather than spreading resources broadly but thinly. The preference should be for scalable projects and programs that maximize resources and expenditures should be considered through the lens of inclusion and equity with an eye toward stimulating entrepreneurship and outside investments.

The task force also determined through the needs assessment process persistent inequities and economic disparities have created significant roadblocks to success for far too many Albany residents, organizations, and businesses, and must be a chief consideration when assessing potential investment of ARP funds.

Task Force Co-Chairs Michael Whalen and Jahkeen Hoke said, “We have a unique opportunity to finally level the playing field for members of underrepresented populations in our city and make a significant and long-lasting difference in their lives. Through smart, focused, and well-planned investments, we have the best chance of reaching and helping the highest number of city residents. This report outlines how to go about achieving those admittedly aggressive, but fundamentally necessary, goals.”

The report highlighted a series of Impact Areas, ranging from supporting mental and emotional health and increasing access to affordable and quality childcare, to supporting real estate investments that advance community revitalization goals and increasing awareness of and equitable access to existing hospitality, arts, and cultural destinations for residents of all ages.

These 32 Impact Areas are supported by 245 Programmatic Recommendations for assessing all ARP-funded programs and projects, with eight Guiding Principles that should serve as universal ideals throughout the process. The first four of those principles – equity, collaboration, sustainability, and impact – are deemed essential by the task force members and should be the determining factor regarding whether any proposals merit ARP funding support.

The task force also recommended four implementation principles – capacity, engagement, flexibility, and compliance – to ensure all ARP-funded efforts are appropriately and efficiently managed and suggested an implementation timeline and reporting structure to build accountability – both to the community and as required by federal regulations – into the process.

In the report, the task force recognized the breadth of the community’s need and recommendations outlined cannot all be filled by the available ARP resources; the task force asks that all local stakeholders explore how their respective organizations and community groups can contribute.

Mayor Sheehan added, “We recognize the task of building back better in a manner that benefits every corner of our city cannot be fully realized without a strong foundation of participation. The work of this task force and its resulting report more than proves that foundation is present, and I am excited and optimistic about the work that lies ahead.”

Though the task force’s work is complete with the delivery of this report, members of the public are encouraged to stay engaged as the decision-making process regarding the distribution of ARP funds. Interested individuals, groups, and organizations can provide feedback here. Development of a process is underway for the allocation of these funds and submission of specific projects and proposals for funding consideration.

ARP funds must be allocated by the end of 2024. The City is taking a first step in soliciting external contractors for specialized financial advisory and grant management services to support its efforts with project management oversight and ensure accountability, transparency, and compliance with all federal requirements.

As recommended by the task force, the selected professional service firm(s) will be managed by a dedicated, interdepartmental team with the sole focus of administering the general ARP initiative. This team will be responsible for developing the proposed ARP budget for the Common Council, designing the implementation protocols and timeline, drafting, and submitting progress reports to federal government, measuring outcomes, communicating progress to the public and ensuring compliance with regulations.

 

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