GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Public voting is underway to decide which Grand Rapids community projects will get a share of $2 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.

It’s part of Grand Rapids’ participatory budgeting process, which is designed to give citizens more input on how dollars are spent.

Residents in each of the city’s three commission wards have until Oct. 5 to weigh in. Anyone who lives in Grand Rapids and is at least 13 years old can vote.

Brand ambassadors like Robert Simmons are manning tables at libraries throughout the city to help residents through the process.

“We’re wanting you to vote your top five: one through five, one being your favorite, five being your least favorite. It’s as simple as that,” Simmons explained.

There’s also an online option to vote.

Simmons said reaction has been positive.

“They’re very surprised at the amount of money being invested in the community and the fact that they have power in the way the money is allocated,” Simmons said.

From greenspace and beautification projects along South Division Avenue in the First Ward to a reading and arts initiative at Palmer Elementary in the Second Ward to upgrades to the Madison Square Library in the Third Ward, 27 projects are on the list. Voters can see how much money is available in each ward and how much each program would get.

“You have three different breakdowns. The first is $600,000 for First Ward, $400,000 for Second Ward and then you have $1 million for Third Ward,” Kenny Medrano of Participatory Budgeting Grand Rapids explained.

The participatory budgeting process began in December 2021. Six hundred ideas were submitted by residents. A steering committee comprised of people who live in the wards sorted through the suggestions.

“Based on equity, feasibility and need, the top ideas going into phase 3, which you see now,” Medrano said.

Once the votes are counted and the winning projects are announced, the next phase begins.

“And then from there, it gets voted on by the city commission,” Medrano said.

While the participatory budgeting process is designed to give residents more control and provide more transparency when it come to the budget, Medrano said it’s also giving them an opportunities beyond the budget.

“We’ve had a great turn out of people just being involved in the process,” he said. “Because that’s an important part in this, to just be involved, aside from just voting.”