NEW ALBANY — Another $200,000 in federal relief funding was awarded to local organizations by the New Albany Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday.
Harvest Homecoming and System of CARE were each approved for $50,000, and the New Albany Township Trustee’s Office garnered $100,000.
New Albany Redevelopment Director Josh Staten said the city is attempting to quickly get portions of the $16.83 million in funds provided to the municipality through the American Rescue Plan to organizations that can help with COVID-19 relief and recovery. The city has until the end of 2024 to disperse all of the money, and the commission has awarded $350,000 in funding after Tuesday’s actions.
“It’s called a rescue plan for a reason,” Staten said.
The $100,000 given to the New Albany Township Trustee’s Office will further aid those in need of utility, food and housing assistance.
In September, the commission awarded $100,000 to the office through the federal CARES Act.
According to New Albany Township Trustee David Brewer, the office helped 521 individuals in 2020, providing about $50,000 in utility assistance, $95,000 in housing assistance, $32,000 in flood assistance and $94,000 in homelessness assistance.
He told the commission needs more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, as the pandemic took its toll on many households in Southern Indiana.
Brewer said the office would also like to use some of the funds to establish an educational program for residents focusing on budgeting expenses, saving money and energy efficiency. Brewer said many of the residents that seek help often are struggling with high utility bills tied to the ages and qualities of their homes.
“There’s a lot of money wasted across the state of Indiana, and throughout the country for that matter, because of houses that aren’t quite up to what they should be,” said Brewer, who is a former New Albany Building Commissioner.
“They have been certainly one of the more active groups through the pandemic and have done a fantastic job helping families,” Staten said of the trustee’s office.
The volunteer organization Harvest Homecoming was awarded $50,000 to help with the 2021 festival after the event was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
Commission member Adam Dickey emphasized the funding isn’t so the community can “throw a big party” this October, but rather as a means to support local businesses and residents.
The funds are intended to be used for local merchant booth fee assistance, promotion of the event and attracting live entertainment for the festival.
“This is really directed at rippling into the existing business and retail sector, and the tourism sector of our city,” Dickey said.
Jeff Cummins, president of Harvest Homecoming, said many of the traditional vendors have been hit hard by the pandemic. The four-day festival in downtown New Albany features booths operated by local organizations, churches and businesses, and it brings thousands of people to the city each year.
“Our goal this year is to put on a festival that will instill some sense of normalcy back to the community — give people back what they’re used to and haven’t been able to do — as well as give a platform to the 30-plus downtown merchants who usually set up a space,” Cummins said.
Jason Applegate, a member of the commission and a New Albany City Councilman, said Harvest Homecoming is a “worthy cause” for federal rescue funds.
“I’ve talked to roughly 8 to 10 organizations that are down in their fundraising due to not having Harvest Homecoming last year, and I think anything we can do to help with getting all the organizations back on their feet — I think it’s a big deal,” he said.
System of CARE
System of CARE is a locally-based nonprofit that supports families and at-risk residents, focusing on mental health, child abuse prevention and substance abuse assistance.
Ann Carruthers, director of System of CARE, said the organization was tasked about four years ago with identifying gaps in service and assistance for children in Southern Indiana.
The organization helps those in need navigate the system and connects them with resources.
“COVID really showed us how much there are mental health components in our community that have not been addressed,” she said.
Also at the meeting
The commission took bids under consideration for the widening of the westbound turning lane on Daisy Lane at State Street. The project will also include additional signage and pavement markings alerting motorists of which lanes access Interstate 265.
The markings and signage are the first fruits of a study the city commissioned the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering to perform last year.
City Engineer Larry Summers said the study, which is due to be released in final draft to New Albany later this week, was “very much a guiding factor” in the addition of the signage.
The commission paid the school to examine State Street from Green Valley Road to the I-265 ramps to determine if any steps would be necessary to improve traffic flow on the roadway.
Summers said that based on a preliminary review of the study, it was determined through a simulation that traffic would function properly on State Street if motorists correctly used the available lanes.
“Basically that study showed that we did not need additional lanes at this time, we just need to better appropriate the traffic in the lanes that we have,” he said.
Improved signage and lane markings are among the recommendations. The low bid for the Daisy Lane project was about $288,000.