St. Petersburg officials looking for community input on how to spend $45M COVID-19 funds

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Millions of dollars from the COVID-19 stimulus bill are being given to the city of St. Petersburg. Now, city officials are turning to the community, wanting to know how it should be spent.

News Channel 8’s Pinellas County Bureau Reporter Christine McLarty went to Downtown St. Pete on Wednesday to learn more.

Dozens of St. Pete businesses are still working to recover from the pandemic, but city officials say help is on the way.

St. Pete’s mayor and deputy mayor announced a plan by the public, for the public.

“The catalyst for the strategy we are announcing today really came from the public,” said St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“We will work with the community to identify and prioritize the eligible areas of impact,” said Dr. Kanika Tomalin, the deputy mayor of St. Pete.

City officials say of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, $350 million of the aid is being allocated to city and community governments throughout America. Of that, $45 million is heading toward St. Pete.

Now, the city is turning to residents and businesses wanting to know how and where the money should be spent.

“Sometimes there’s a tendency for politicians or policymakers to think they have all the answers or that there’s an expectation that they have to come up with all the answers. But they don’t know everything,” said Jason Mathis, the CEO for Downtown Partnership in St. Pete.

Mathis said their company is a private, nonprofit corporation focused on promoting urban growth and redevelopment. He said they represent about 150 businesses and thinks it’s wise for community leaders to choose to pause, research, and learn.

“To actually go to the people they serve and ask them the question ‘if you had additional resources, what would be the most effective way to spend that? How can we help our city the most?’ I think it’s a really brilliant idea,” Mathis said.

City officials said the money will be dispersed in two installments, this summer and next. Three workshops will be held in July to discuss how to spend the money.

Details about when and where those workshops will be have not yet been released.

Mathis said he hopes innovative future-focused ideas for this investment will help St. Pete grow stronger and more resilient for years to come.

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