In early October, Gov. Pat Quinn announced he'd fund his administration's Neighorhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) to the tune of $50 million with money that came from a $3.46 billion pot the General Assembly authorized back in May. NRI promised to revitalize urban areas and stem the violence plaguing them by funding a wide range of services and job training efforts for young people and adults alike.
NRI has faded from the headlines a bit, even as state money starts to trickle into the targeted neighborhoods, most of which are in Chicago. AustinTalks recently put some meat on the bones of the initiative, detailing how $1.13 million made available through NRI would be distributed in that West Side community. A healthcare network will take the state dollars and make grants to other organizations to set up a $400,000 mentoring and jobs program and a $100,000 parent outreach effort. There's $275,000 available for student counseling services, $250,000 for ex-offender reentry, and $100,000 for a youth violence prevention effort. Check out the full piece here.
With the state behind on its bills to the tune of $15 billion, and other social service providers and vendors desperately wanting for payments, Quinn's decision to fund NRI was controversial, to say the least. The governor has never explained why NRI deserved $50 million in light of the state's unresolved budget deficit and its deep backlog of bills. NRI-funded programming in Austin will surely help a community struggling with unemployment and violence. But other social service providers and state agencies -- including some that do work similar to NRI -- are no doubt wondering when they'll get funded again too. The governor and General Assembly can't put off this question for much longer.