American Rescue Plan

A survey of 1,438 Springfield households ranked safety and crime prevention as the number one priority for funding in the city, resulting in a new retention pay fund for law enforcement, the fire department and healthcare personnel.

The survey, which the results for were released on Oct. 25, found that 55% of those surveyed placed the category of “public safety and crime prevention” as the area of highest importance to be funded, above other options regarding housing, community health and economic recovery. 

The Springfield City Council’s American Rescue Plan Committee met on Nov. 2 to review the findings of the survey, deciding to subsequently vote and recommend use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to create retention pay for first responders. The retention pay fund would provide up to $6,000 per employee over three years and would be for full-time contract employees. 

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided about 2.7 billion dollars to the state of Missouri, including 56.6 million dollars specifically allocated to Greene County. Springfield itself will receive 40 million dollars to allocate, which must be spent by the end of 2026.

Matthew Simpson, Mayor Pro Tem of Springfield and chairman of the ARPA committee in Springfield, said,”We’ve had a lot of retention challenges in the city...I believe that we had 40 (officers) down from our authorization (last year). Around that time, we also adopted a new recruitment plan that had strong results, so we’re hoping that [higher retention pay] will help to further increase those numbers.”

Simpson later noted the survey would send a message to first responders that the community recognizes them on the front lines, responding to emergencies, and that they support their efforts. 

The survey also highlighted a definitive difference in funding preferences between age groups, as data shows those surveyed between ages 18 to 45 rated public safety as the highest priority, at a much lower rate (41%) than those ages 46 to 65 (54%), and those ages 66 and above (69%). Eighteen to 45 year old respondents ranked homeless and housing services as their number one priority, the most out of any age group, at 49%, preferring it be funded over public safety. 

When asked about representing these concerns of the younger population, Simpson reassured that, “We have to be both reactive and proactive when it comes to problems in the area. If you have someone for an ambulance or an officer during some kind of current emergency, we want to still make sure those people are properly responded to.

However, we also recognize the need to address underlying causes of crime, like poverty and homelessness...we’re working with multiple nonprofit organizations to still make sure those needs are met. This is our one chance to spend this money; we want to make sure we get this right the first time.”

The city council is on track to make the final vote on creating the new retention pay fund by early 2022, well ahead of the federal government’s requirement to obligate the funds by 2024.

 

Follow Allie Free on Twitter at @free_allie.

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