Bloomington City Funds “Recover Forward” Projects To Increase Economic, Racial, Climate Justice

(BLOOMINGTON) – Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative is poised to begin, to help Bloomington recover from the pandemic and economic collapse, and advancing racial, economic, and climate justice. 

The Bloomington Common Council approved reallocating $2 million of 2019 reversion funds on August 12, as the first in a multi-phase strategy to help the community rebound and thrive in the face of concurrent crises.  Rather than restoring a pre-pandemic normal, Recover Forward seeks to lean into a future more thoroughly embodying our community’s goals for racial equity, a sustainable and inclusive economy, and climate action.  

Mayor John Hamilton

“I appreciate City Council’s approval of the reallocation of these reserve funds toward programs that will work to repair the damage of this devastating year and help the community recover forward toward our shared vision of a stronger, more just, and more resilient Bloomington,” said Mayor John Hamilton.   

Projects in the first phase of Recover Forward are beginning in the next several weeks, including expanding access to jobs through training/education, housing, transportation options, renewable energy, social services, food, the arts, and the internet.  State approval of the funding allocation for these Recover Forward Phase One projects is expected during the week of August 31.  The passage of the 2021 budget, which was first presented to council last week, will mark the second phase of the Recover Forward plan, with a reallocation of $4M of City reserves among departments to protect basic services during this challenging time and advance projects to increase racial, economic, and climate justice.  

The following Phase One projects (listed with budgeted expenditure) are underway, with their current status outlined:  

Code School: $100K

This low-cost, 12-week coding training program launching in October will focus on helping people who are un- or underemployed, underrepresented, or interested in training, access a tech career.  Leading this initiative, The Mill will work with gener8tor, a Midwest-based startup accelerator, to provide the training, and intends to partner with IU, Ivy Tech and several local employers to integrate Code School participants into Bloomington’s growing tech community.  Each 12-week session will be open to a cohort of 40 participants, to be provided laptops if in need.  Local tech talent will serve as mentors to participants, who will also receive career readiness training to complement their technical program.  More information about applications and program dates will be available soon.

Affordable Home Ownership: $450K

The City’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Department (HAND) is launching two new programs to assist home buyers who have difficulty accessing the Bloomington home ownership market, and simultaneously establishing long-term affordability of some homes.  HAND has developed the application for assistance and is finalizing the mortgage, promissory note, and other documents necessary to underwrite the loans.  HAND staff will be sharing promotional materials about the homeownership programs to distribute to financial institutions and local realtors about both programs:

  • Downpayment Assistance: $100K

This program builds directly on an existing federally funded HAND program and offers homebuying-ready families up to $10,000 to help with a down payment needed to purchase a home.

  • Shared Appreciation Home Ownership, 2nd Mortgage Assistance: $350K

This program provides larger purchase assistance to potential homebuyers — up to $50,000 and at least 20% of the purchase price — to facilitate the purchase, in exchange for permanent affordability of the home through shared appreciation.

Sidewalk and Path Enhancements: $400K

This program will focus on investments in low- and moderate-income areas to improve ADA curb ramps, bike lane, and bike path pavement, and repair sidewalk damage caused by street trees.   Public Works staff is preparing bid and quote packages for the following contracts, with specific locations under review:  

  • $250,000 package of sidewalk replacement projects.
  • $50,000 of sidewalk grinding projects for trip hazard elimination
  • $50,000 for asphalt sealing and repair of multi-use side paths
  • Two $25,000 smaller sidewalk packages for panel repair damaged by tree roots from trees in city-owned tree plots.

Sidewalk/Path Improvements for BT Stops: $250K

This project will improve accessibility to at least 25 Bloomington Transit (BT) bus stops. Staff from the Public Works department have engaged local engineering firm VS Engineering, Inc., which has begun design for the improvements.  The stops were chosen based on BT’s 2019 accessibility inventory, a comprehensive bus stop assessment and inventory that evaluated and rated each bus stop according to ADA and accessibility guidelines. 

Jack Hopkins: $200K

The City Council’s Jack Hopkins Social Service Committee will reconvene in September to reconsider grant proposals from nonprofit agencies made during the first round of awards, to allocate additional funding as quickly as possible.  The committee will reach out to the nonprofit agencies and consider several scenarios in order to maximize the benefit of this funding for the populations the agencies serve.

Net New Job Incentives (to Small Businesses and Organizations): $375K

Discussions with potential partners are currently underway in the development of programs to support underserved and underemployed Bloomington residents in acquiring jobs and skills that will make them 1) eligible for higher wage skilled labor jobs in the building trades and other similar professions; 2) eligible for governmental and other regulated private sector contracts; and 3) eligible for reentry into the job market after challenging life circumstances.  Potential partners for this and the Life Sciences Support program below include Ivy Tech Community College, Hoosier Hills Career Center, and other trades-related partners. 

Life Sciences Support: $50K
A Biomanufacturing Technician Apprenticeship Program, is a 110-hour, 3-week course that teaches necessary skills to gain employment in our region’s life sciences manufacturing sector, and will begin with a cohort of 28 participants on October 5 at the Ivy Tech Indiana Center for Life Sciences.  Application information will be available soon.

Energy Efficiency—Commercial & Residential Improvements: $250K

Through energy-efficiency loans and grants, this program will reduce energy burden and operational costs for eligible homeowners, renters and small businesses, primarily targeting income-restricted homes or small businesses as well as multi-family units managed by property management companies with greater than five units.  The  Economic and Sustainable Development Department (ESD) is currently designing program elements, starting to engage with community partners, and exploring administrative platforms for servicing loans to be made through the program.

Farm Stop: $75K (initial investment)

This project addresses the fragility of the local food system by creating a consignment-based, local-only grocery store, following the successful model developed by the Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  ESD’s Local Food Coordinator is meeting with the local growers who will be partners in this farmer-owned cooperative, and with Bloomingfoods, which may serve as an intermediary fiscal sponsor and offer other operating support.

Arts Community: $100K

ESD staff is currently developing the grant process to ensure the rapid dissemination before the end of the year of an additional $100K allocated to support the city’s arts institutions and programs.  

Digital Equity: $35K

The City’s Information Technology Services department is developing best practices for setting up and administering a digital equity grants fund to support local nonprofits in their efforts to bridge the digital divide.  At the same time, staff are reviewing best practices of other cities with digital equity funds and establishing a subcommittee of the Bloomington Digital Underground Advisory Committee for the review of grant proposals. Grants are expected to be awarded before the end of the year.