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Polk County leaders seeking residents' feedback for spending $95 million in COVID-19 relief

The Board of Supervisors has already identified four priority areas: affordable housing, economic well-being, water quality and mental health.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Polk County Board of Supervisors held its first public forum Monday to ask residents how they'd like to see $95 million invested into their community.

Monday's forum was held from 6-8 p.m. at the Iowa Events Center. 

Polk County will receive $95 million in COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021. The county received the first half of that funding in May. The last half will be dispersed in May 2022.

Polk County Board Chair Angela Connolly said, "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a tremendous impact on Polk County residents for generations to come. Because of the scale of this opportunity, the Board of Supervisors are committed to a process that will result in long-term systemic changes and will be making strategic investments to address key priority areas."

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The Board of Supervisors has already identified four priority areas: affordable housing, economic well-being, water quality and mental health.

Many speakers at Monday's forum represented nonprofit community organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Food Bank of Iowa and Wesley Life. 

County leaders expressed their enthusiasm and support for the ideas presented but said the ideas they choose can only be one-and-done investments. 

"We need things that will make a lasting impact but can't be setting something up for ongoing funding, so think about that," said Polk County Administrator John Norris. "Think about short-term investments that can lead to long-term impacts but don't develop a dependency for ongoing funding." 

Four more public forums will take place over the next several months. An online survey and public comments will be available online on Polk County's website through December 31. A live feed is also available.

WATCH | How are Iowa cities planning to spend federal COVID relief money from the American Rescue Plan? 

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