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Wausau decides how to use US bailout funds

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – The city of Wausau is deciding how to use its U.S. bailout funds after receiving about $15 million to help programs and projects impacted by COVID-19.

At their April 12 meeting, five projects were approved, including broadband expansion, courthouse improvements, and community partner participation on campus.

Any outside person or organization wishing to contribute ideas must go through an application process. Ben Lee is part of the Affordable Housing Task Force and said it was important to keep records of where the money went.

“When it comes time to report back to the federal government on how we’re using those dollars, who’s using them, then they put together this ranking,” Lee said.

Lee says the funding is a unique opportunity to solve problems in the community.

“It’s one-time dollars that our community sees, so we have to be smart,” Lee said.

Some of the money is already used. Part of it was spent on treating PFAS in groundwater, but Wausau’s chief financial officer, Maryanne Groat, said the finance committee was following advice to be careful and not spend too quickly.

“You hate to spend it all and then bring in federal programs that would have done the same thing,” Groat said.

Last year, the city held public hearings where community members were able to voice the issues they felt were most important to address.

“They were mostly related to low-income housing projects, affordable housing projects,” Groat said.

The Affordable Housing Task Force is pleased that this is a priority and met on Wednesday to discuss any recommendations they could make to City Council that will help improve the affordable housing shortage.

“Housing in Marathon County is not affordable, based on the cost of living here and living wages,” Lee said. “The goal is to create a lasting impact in our community.”

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