City of Milwaukee holds meeting discussing ARPA funding

NOW: City of Milwaukee holds meeting discussing ARPA funding

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee's got $92 million left in federal funds, from the American Rescue Plan Act. The public's getting a chance to weigh in on where to spend it.

One mom in this room has a very personal reason for what she's asking city leaders to consider, and it is something that has plagued many parts of the city, including the 53206 zip code.

"I am the mother of two wonderful boys who have been personally impacted by lead poisoning," said Deanna Branch of "Cole" Coalition of Lead Emergency.

What Deanna Branch once felt embarrassed to share, has become a passion.

"I tried to hide in my house, be ashamed, and not share my story," said Branch.

Just 24 hours before this meeting, she and her sons were invited to the White House by Vice President Kamala Harris.

"And she just congratulated us on all our hard work, and she got to get a signed copy of my son's book "Aidan the Lead-Free Superhero", said Branch.

Aidan's nine now. Two hospitalizations later, mom learned their home in this neighborhood near 26th and Wright had high levels of toxic lead.

"How much lead was in that house, it was just, it was just a nightmare. We had to, I had to break my lease, face homelessness. Wooh, it was just a lot," said Branch.

Branch started sharing her story, first just to church friends.

"I heard so many other stories that sounded too similar to my story to make me comfortable. I'm like why is this happening in our community?" said Branch.

She's now part of "Cole" -- that's Coalition on Lead Emergency -- asking Milwaukee for $5 million in ARPA funds for lead-abatement programs and support.

"This money is for the city. It's for the people and our recovery from Covid. Although we're aldermen and decision makers for city hall, our decisions have to be guided by what the people want," said Alderwoman Milele Coggs of Milwaukee, district 6.

This first ARPA public input meeting was held at Riverworks Development Corporation. The ARPA task force will make recommendations to a common council committee. What comes out of that will then be presented to the full council.

Two more meetings like this one are planned. Next week they'll be at the Mitchell Street Library, 906 W. Historic Mitchell Street, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11. It's a bilingual session in Spanish. The final one is a virtual meeting on Zoom to be held Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 5:30 p.m.-7:30pm. You can learn more here.

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