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South Alabama Economic Roundtable to hold forums on the Rescue Plan funding

The roundtable will hold two virtual forums and at least three in-person community forums on the region’s American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The interstate leading into Downtown Mobile, Alabama.

The South Alabama Economic Roundtable held a virtual press conference on Tuesday to share the next steps that the group will take to gather community feedback on how to allocate American Rescue Plan funds most equitably. Their goal is to present proposals for funding that reflect the input of the underserved and marginalized.

The event began with the Roundtable’s Teresa Bettis highlighting critical research on the communities of greatest need across Mobile as determined by HUD’s 2010 Census data. She highlighted Executive Order 13985 that addresses ARPA’s funding allocation. She announced that the roundtable will hold a series of community forums on the region’s ARPA funding. She encouraged the community – especially those who reside in the target zones identified during her presentation — to register for one of the upcoming community forums. Two forums will be virtual and three or more will be in-person utilizing COVID-19 protocols.

The South Alabama Economic Roundtable is a coalition of community leaders from the business, non-profit and faith-based communities.

The first virtual community forum will be on Thursday, July 8, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The second virtual community forum will be held on Tuesday, July 13 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The South Alabama Economic Roundtable will announce in-person forum registration links and additional details on Thursday, July 8. More information about how to participate in future events will be provided on the website or by contacting the roundtable via email ([email protected]). The voicemail number is 251-265-1120. The website is still under construction and will launch on July 9.

On Tuesday, June 29, during the Mobile City Council meeting, the South Alabama Economic Roundtable requested a four-week delay to vote on a final budget allocation for American Rescue Plan funds given to the city by the federal government earlier this year. The delay would permit time for the community’s priorities to be included alongside the plan Mayor Sandy Stimpson presented to City Council at the meeting on June 22, 2021.

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“The Roundtable offers the opportunity for input and transparency in the process to allocate the funding,” said Bettis. “We seek to ensure that the distribution of the federal funds abides by the dictates of President Biden’s Executive Order 13985 on January 20,2021: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

The roundtable said that it believes that the Stimpson budget was produced without sufficient community assessment of how over $58 million is to be spent equitably as mandated by Executive Order 13985.

“Numerous members of our community including pastors, business owners, non-profit leaders and everyday citizens have expressed their concerns and displeasure regarding the lack of inclusion in this proposal,” Bettis said. “The delay will allow more time for the Roundtable to work with the community to help address their priorities and ensure that monies are best distributed for the greatest impact in the spirit of the Executive Order.”

The roundtable says that it will work with both the City Council and the community to conduct surveys and gather community feedback to submit to the administration for inclusion in the budget proposal prior to the City Council vote.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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