Listed below are summaries for the various program ideas to be further explored by county appointed task forces. These programs are arranged based on the main program areas determined by the La Crosse County Board. Some projects may hit multiple areas of impact.
1. Sustainability & Environmental Protection
A) Expanded Conservation Practices: Conservation programs take on a range of activities that may help reduce soil erosion and slow down runoff from storm events. This may include activities such as: Streambank stabilization, flood/stormwater protection and conservation easements. Greater focus on slowing down runoff and reducing sediment loading into local streams will reduce need for bridge/highway/culvert projects impacted by flood events, as well as help cover expenses for farmers and landowners who may not be able to cover expenses of large-scale erosion reduction.
B) Renewable/Green Infrastructure Incentives: Programs (grants/low interest loans) under this category would be developed to encourage homeowners, farmers, businesses, and other organizations to install renewable/green infrastructure on their properties. Initial capital costs often preclude the use of renewable energy producing systems and their long-term savings. Using ARPA funding for these expenses will stimulate the renewable energy economy, while producing long-term energy savings for homeowners, farmers and businesses.
2. Affordable Housing
A) Supported Bridge Housing for Families Experiencing Homelessness: This option would provide short-term, immediate housing for families combined with case management. The housing would serve as a bridge from homelessness/shelter to transitional, long-term supported or permanent housing options. Case management is essential to address issues impacting immediate and long-term stability. Currently community options for unhoused families are area homeless shelters or an underfunded patchwork system of hotel vouchers. Neither option, when available, provides the support or length of stay necessary to secure a longer-term living arrangement. This often leads to endless transitions and a forced transient lifestyle. Supporting families through these situations is also extremely taxing on workers/helpers due to systemic barriers, specialized knowledge that is needed for housing navigation, and lack of options.
B) Supported Housing for Individuals with Substance Use/Persistent Mental Health Issues: Provide medium to longer-term housing with case management plus onsite staffing for unhoused individuals struggling with severe and persistent mental health and/or substance use. Components would include onsite staffing, case management, and the ability to establish a rental history. This could reduce cost in several areas, including payment for individuals requiring placement at state mental health institutions. Often, individuals with severe and persistent mental health concerns having an increase in mental health symptoms when faced with chronic homelessness. Few community helpers exist with the combination of willingness, expertise, and resources to effectively support these individuals with long-term solutions.
C) Grants for Housing Redevelopment: Partner with local municipalities to develop local program(s) aimed at assisting residents looking to redevelop aged/dilapidated housing stock into more modern, reasonably sized, energy efficient housing. This could include a variety of interest groups, such as first-time homeowners, aging homeowners, etc. The expense of new construction for housing could be offset to focus greater development into already developed municipalities by covering tear down and disposal expenses of dilapidated, aged housing units.
3. Infrastructure w/ Focus on Aging
A) Hillview Redevelopment: Provide funding to assist with a transition at Hillview to a newer building with a smaller footprint and a facility with greater focus on specialty care/shorter term stays. Hillview was built to house 226 residents but has a current census of about 80 people, which reflects changes in the long-term care model. To create a sustainable future for the facility, a transition to a smaller and more modern campus that’s better equipped to provide specialty care is recommended. The use of ARPA funds would also reduce the need for revenue from property taxes to help fund a major redevelopment. The proposed transition would allow Hillview to meet a need from area hospitals and the broader community for specialty care for people with dementia and mental health conditions. At the same time, it would put Hillview on a firmer financial footing for the future.
A) Strategic Investments in Childcare: By developing incentives for area employers to work together to offer childcare services for their employees, we would be able to increase the financial viability of childcare businesses, which would lead to more availability of quality, affordable childcare. The biggest challenge to our local economy is the availability of workforce, and the lack of childcare is a growing obstacle for parents to reenter the workforce. This issue also tends to impact low-income families at a greater rate.
B) Community Supported Neighborhood Model: This program is designed around providing childcare in specific geographies (neighborhood school boundary areas) where student mobility is greatest. By providing childcare services in these areas it would likely improve employment opportunities for residents, potentially reduce student mobility and in turn improve student performance at the neighborhood school. Neighborhood schools with the greatest student mobility volumes would be targeted. This is a pilot program that has the ability to measure the impact providing childcare services has on a wide range of issues impacting family incomes, student mobility and student performance.
5. Local Economy & Tourism
A) Tourism Incentives: By working with Explore La Crosse to first incentivize conferences and conventions to commit to returning to our community for multiple years, and then offering incentives for conference attendees to return as leisure travelers, we would give our hospitality industry the boost it needs. The hospitality industry has been hit by a double whammy with shutdowns due to COVID-19 and now workforce shortages that are causing operational reductions. Not only is this industry important to our local economy, but it also creates amenities that speak to the overall quality of life of our community, and therefore overall workforce attraction.
B) Immigrant Friendly Community Investments: Working with partners to build a better support network for immigrant populations will help our community to welcome the workforce that will be needed to keep our economy strong. From ethnic restaurants and grocery stores to social organizations and cultural programming, we need to be intentional about creating a welcoming community for diverse populations. The workforce shortage is the number one issue that is stressing our local economy – forcing many businesses to reduce hours of operation, lose profits, and pass up opportunities for growth. This is an issue that is not going away, and the communities that will best be able to compete in the new economy are those that are ready to welcome a diverse workforce and reduce barriers.
C) Skilled Trades Training : Working with partners to develop better training programs and facilities to help youth find and be successful in careers in the trades will help fill workforce gaps in a critical sector of our economy. Skilled trades have been struggling with attracting workforce for a while, but those challenges have been amplified by both COVID-19 and the overall workforce shortages. Without adequate workforce in the skilled trades, it is difficult to keep our tax base strong and our local economy growing.