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Community updates: Thursday, May 20

Grand Rapids leaders approve 2022 budget; Gov. Whitmer announces lifted outdoor capacity limits in June, no indoor limits in July; and Uptown Grand Rapids continues beautification projects for east side business districts.
Pinkie's Ice Cream in the Wealthy St. business district.

Pinkie's Ice Cream in the Wealthy St. business district. /Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids leaders approve 2022 budget

Grand Rapids city commissioners approved a $546 million city budget for 2021-2022 on Thursday, maintaining current service levels and aiding in economic recovery.

Presented by the City of Grand Rapids as a “continuation budget,” the fiscal year 2022 budget will have around $156 million going to the city’s general operating fund portion – 29 percent of the total budget. This includes public safety, health and human services, and public works, among other operations.

Running from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, FY22 is an increase of $15 million from the city’s previous fiscal year, in large part because of federal aid through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). According to the City of Grand Rapids, it expects to receive around $92 million in relief through the ARPA over the next two fiscal years.

This has been a challenging year for everyone,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “We are still coming out of this pandemic and out of a recession. Hopefully, this next year will be more positive than we are currently projecting, but we are still in the midst of recovery.”

A majority of the ARPA aid the city will receive will be used to replace revenue lost from a pandemic-related reduction in local income taxes over the last year. As shared by city officials in prior City Commission meetings, $36 million is estimated to be lost for this reason.

I am grateful for the federal funds that are enabling us to move forward with stabilizing our budget and hopefully come through this pandemic still fiscally sound,” added Bliss.

The FY22 fiscal plan also invests more than $25.6 million in city departments and programs that will contribute to more equitable policies, practices, and outcomes. Among these investments are increasing the supply of affordable housing, lead service line replacements in the Third Ward, and bringing the crime reduction program Cure Violence to the city.

More details about the city’s FY22 fiscal plan are available through its website.


Gov. Whitmer announces lifted outdoor capacity limits in June, no indoor limits in July

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an updated ‘MI Vacc to Normal’ plan on Thursday, setting dates for an end to capacity restrictions for outdoor and indoor gatherings across the state.

Previously linking the lifting of such limits to state vaccination rates, limits for all outdoor events will now end June 1, with indoor limits ending July 1.

"Starting June 1, we will be moving forward, faster than excepted, towards a return to normalcy," said Whitmer. "Soon, Michiganders will be able to celebrate together, have summer weddings, and even enjoy a 4th of July barbecue with family and friends."

As of Thursday, Michigan has 57.1 percent of all Michiganders age 16 and older having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. Before the updated Vacc to Normal plan, indoor capacity limits would have only been lifted when that number reached 65 percent.

"This is what we have all been working so hard towards, and I am so grateful to every Michigander who continues to go above and beyond to keep themselves, their family, and our communities safe," she continued. "Thanks to them, we can take these final steps towards a return to the normalcy and build our economy back stronger than ever."

Reflecting Whitmer’s updated plan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will issue an updated epidemic order on Monday, May 24. Throughout the month of June, people who are not yet fully vaccinated will still be required wear face coverings while indoors.

Last week, Whitmer had announced an end to the state’s face recovering requirement for outdoor settings, and an end to the requirement for indoor settings for those fully vaccinated. After July 1, the state’s indoor face covering requirement for all people will expire.

The MDHHS’ forthcoming update for its epidemic order will be available through its website.


Uptown Grand Rapids continues beautification projects for east side business districts

Partnering with local nonprofits, Uptown Grand Rapids’ beautification efforts are ramping up for business districts on Grand Rapids’ east side.

The organization announced an update on its progress on Tuesday, detailing its work now spanning four projects. The projects encompass Eastown, East Fulton, Wealthy St., and East Hills.

At the beginning of 2021, Uptown began partnering with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI) to add a boots-on-the-ground maintenance presence to the districts. The Ambassadors have been responsible for emptying trash receptacles, removing graffiti, and providing area information to pedestrians, among other duties.

Our Ambassador Program consists of a truly unique team of dedicated and dynamic professionals that keep Uptown clean, beautiful, and friendly for visitors, workers, and neighbors alike,” DGRI’s Operations Manager for the Ambassador Program, Rebecca Krenz, said. “Making a positive impact in this burgeoning and eclectic community is deeply important and fulfilling to all of us on the team.”

Uptown Grand Rapids also began a partnership this year with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks to improve the districts’ landscapes, planting 50 new trees so far, revamping all public beds and garden areas with fresh mulch, and adding through-style planters throughout East Fulton.

The other projects include commissioning more locally-made art outdoors in Eastown, and reimbursing local businesses and property owners for façade rehabilitations, for applicants approved through its Façade Improvement Program.

More details about beautification projects underway by Uptown Grand Rapids are available through its website.


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