$10 million plan set as Nashville readies for a post-pandemic rebound

Mayor Cooper has announced plans for the distribution of resources to neighborhoods and businesses to ready for a post pandemic Nashville.

On Monday, Mayor John Cooper shared a plan to invest $10 million in Nashville’s neighborhoods and businesses.

The mayor’s proposal for a one-time Local Support Grant includes money to bolster community strategies for reducing gun and other violence. It directs $1 million to small and micro-business recovery and $5 million (half the total grant) to the city’s Barnes Fund for affordable housing.

“We have restored financial stability to Nashville and are confident about more federal relief funding coming to Nashville,” Mayor John Cooper said. “Now is a smart moment to use these one-time dollars, to address pressing needs and invest local businesses as they approach the rebound.”

The mayor’s plan goes before Metro Council for approval in coming weeks.

Two million dollars would support neighborhood-driven safety strategies as Mayor Cooper fulfills recommendations from his Policing Policy Commission (PPC).

A round of grants would bolster community groups using evidence-based, community-informed approaches.

“Partnering with (and investing in) the groups working to make our neighborhoods safer was one of the Policing Policy Commission’s most important recommendations,” said Sharon Roberson, a PPC member and president/CEO of YWCA Nashville and Middle Tennessee. “I want to thank Mayor Cooper for making a major down payment on that recommendation.”

A mayor-established council would provide partners with technical assistance and highlight efforts the mayor could expand in future budget proposals.

“There are moments that define the heart and commitment of a city. This is one of them,” said Bishop Joseph W. Walker III, senior pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Nashville. “Sustaining and expanding partnerships assures that Nashville becomes a safer and more just city.”

Meanwhile, a community safety coordinator, working in the Mayor’s Office, would support partners across Nashville.

“Gideon’s Army is working every day to make our neighborhoods safer. Now is the time for the public to invest to make this work sustainable,” said Rasheedat Fetuga, founder/CEO of Gideon’s Army. “While more funds are needed to repair the harm caused by generations of systemic racism and neglect, I am glad Mayor Cooper is taking this first step.”

Finally, another $1 million would help support residents in crisis as the pandemic has intensified behavioral health challenges across the U.S.

Forty percent of Tennesseans (many of them ages 18 to 29) have recently reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Suspected overdoses have increased by 31% between 2019 and 2020, the Nashville Fire Department reports.

A Behavioral Health Crisis Response Initiative (BHCRI), housed at Metro Public Health, will assess the city’s behavioral health capacity, improve Nashville’s response to opioid overdoses, and provide residents with better access to behavioral health services during crises.

The funding will augment the services of the mobile crisis unit and provide support for co-responder models that establish a primary role for behavioral health specialists to respond to crises. The result will be better care for residents during crisis and a reduction in pressure on police and other emergency personnel, often the first to respond to these calls.

One hundred and six local businesses (many of them in Nashville’s music, hospitality, and entertainment sectors) are on a waiting list at Pathway Lending for recovery assistance grants. Pathway, a U.S. Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution, has so far distributed $4.2 million in local pandemic-time help on the city’s behalf.

So far, two grant rounds have supported 582 local businesses; 40% of them were minority-owned, and 62% were micro-businesses, meaning they have between $35,000 and $250,000 in revenue. A third round expanded to include businesses with revenue minimums and maximums of $15,000 and $1.25 million (instead of $35,000 and $1 million). It would reach sole proprietors and smaller outfits that did not qualify before.

“Nashville’s businesses are preparing for a rebound,” said Clint Gwin, Pathway president/CEO. “They need support to stay afloat and prepare for the busy summer ahead. An additional wave of grants would help our city’s small and micro-businesses turn the corner and put this pandemic behind them.”

That third wave would also bring the city’s total COVID-time small business assistance investment to $6.7 million. Plus, the allocation would bring Metro’s total pandemic-time investment in local businesses and organizations (including live music venues, the Nashville Famers Market and local arts organizations) to $9.5 million since September 2020.

“The survival of our small business community is critical to Nashville’s economy and to our rebound,” Mayor Cooper said. “Nashville’s small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy. I’m committed to supporting them, now and on the other side of this crisis.”

Finally, $500,000 would support a fund for Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. to recruit diverse and inclusive COVID-safe events that highlight Nashville’s cultural history and diverse population.

On December 25, a blast devastated historic Second Avenue in downtown Nashville. Days later, Cooper brought together a panel of experts to lead a rebuilding that honors the area’s history, better connect downtown to the rest of Nashville and is informed by all residents who want a voice in the process.

The mayor’s chosen project manager, Ron Gobbell, and Metro Planning are working on that rebuild with partners like the Nashville Downtown Partnership, Metro Historical Commission, Metro Housing and Development Agency, the Civic Design Center and Urban Land Institute.

So far, they’ve hosted three community engagement sessions to reach an estimated 175 people, with more to come. Metro Planning would put $250,000 toward that effort, for example, making capital planning recommendations, as well as conceptual designs and other visualizations to help residents imagine a future historic Second Avenue.

Metro Public Works would use another $250,000 to help restore the publicly-owned infrastructure (like roadways, lighting and other street scaping) that is essential to a full recovery.

Additionally, half of the grant will go to the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing.