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Mayor Kincannon earmarks a portion of $35 million in ARPA funds for nonprofits, business improvements

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Earlier this week, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon announced the city’s proposal to use more than $35 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Most of the funds are focused on civic improvements that were put on hold as the city switched priorities to help people in need during the pandemic.

“The entire country, including Knoxville, was hurt by COVID-19,” Mayor Kincannon said in a news release. “We were knocked down, but not out. Fortunately, with this much-appreciated federal assistance, we can provide new resources to our community that help us recover from the pandemic and thrive in the years to come.”

A few line items will impact local businesses and nonprofits here in the city. Knoxville’s City Council members will be asked to approve the proposal as an amendment to the operating and capital budget during the first of two readings on October 19.

United Way of Greater Knoxville will receive $1.05 million, which will be distributed to other nonprofits throughout the city. In 2020, United Way launched the COVID-19 Response Fund, which distributed $1.1 million in mini-grants to dozens of local organizations. The proposed funding from the ARPA will help United Way continue to support nonprofits in providing their individual services. Priorities for the fund include but are not limited to mental and behavioral health services; substance abuse and addiction treatment; food access and security; childcare services; and homelessness prevention.

Similarly, the Arts and Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville will receive $1.3 million. As a nonprofit, the Arts and Culture Alliance supports a community of artists, arts organizations, and cultural institutions. The funds will go toward a series of Recovery and Renewal Grants for projects as well as local arts and culture nonprofits. It is estimated that these organizations had a net loss of $13.8 million during the pandemic, according to the proposal. The focus of the grants will be on historically underserved communities or those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, as well as neighborhoods in Knoxville.

“By including the Alliance in their plans for American Rescue funds, Mayor Jacobs and Mayor Kincannon have demonstrated that they appreciate the role and value of arts and culture to the city and county and understand the terrible impact the pandemic has had on our field,” said Liza Zenni, Executive Director of the Arts and Culture Alliance. “We are tremendously grateful for their support and are anxious to get back to work boosting tourism, generating economic gains for the business community, and helping children regain ground lost during the pandemic.”

These funds will be in addition to federal funds distributed through the “Shuttered Venue Operators Grant” program through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Learn more in this teknovation.biz article.

Visit Knoxville will receive $210,363 to cover a portion of lost hotel and motel tax revenue from the pandemic.

The Young Williams Animal Center will receive $163,873 from the city and Knox County as reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses during the pandemic. The local animal shelter is a nonprofit.

The Beck Cultural Exchange Center will receive $100,000 to help restore the Delaney House. As a famous artist from Knoxville, Beauford Delaney contributed to Black culture. The restoration of his homestead will allow the nonprofit organization to enhance visitor understanding of art and Black culture, according to the proposal.

Prior to the pandemic, the City of Knoxville had agreed to provide the Ijams Nature Center with $1.5 million over three years to address improvements and upgrades in the nonprofit’s master plan. However, only the first installment of $500,000 was paid before funds were halted due to COVID-19. The city will use $500,000 of ARPA funds to make the second payment to Ijams. The funds will go toward improvements in the nature center building, adding a canopy walkway to address accessibility issues, pedestrian walkways, caution lights, and paving the parking lot.

Under the “Thriving Businesses & Good Jobs” section of the proposal, more than $2.4 million in funds was designated for building and road improvements meant to increase traffic to local businesses.

  • The Façade Improvement Program, which will receive $750,000, is an ongoing effort that has not been funded for the last two fiscal years due to the pandemic. The funds go toward projects for building owners that do not have the resources for repairs and/or upgrades to their buildings. By investing in these areas, the city hopes to attract new businesses and create jobs that will revitalize neighborhoods, according to the proposal.
  • The Millertown Pike Project will receive $1.2 million in funding. This amount was previously requested in the budget process for fiscal year 2021-2022 but was not funded due to the pandemic. The project will increase road capacity on Millertown Pike from Kinzel Way to Mill Road. This will address congestion issues in the area.
  • Façade Improvements at World’s Fair Park will involve the west-facing side of the Exhibition Hall and the Tennessean Condos/Marriott Hotel property. The $500,000 project will coordinate with the property owner of the hotel and condos to improve and maintain a common façade for the area. This will form a distinctive area for pedestrian amenities and will enhance the appearance of the buildings.

If the budget amendment is approved, it will be effective immediately after the second reading on November 2. The funds will be distributed shortly after.

The full proposal can be found here, and a video of Mayor Kincannon highlighting various projects for the ARPA funds can be found here.

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