SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has discovered what appears to be multiple high ranking city officials receiving payments from the city of South Bend from money that was was intended to go toward helping people who were financially impacted by COVID19 lockdowns. These officials not only maintained their jobs through the pandemic, many were given raises or bonuses during that time.
RNM is breaking down the disbursement of nearly $3.1 million dollars used for Utility Forgiveness by the City of South Bend, which wiped away outstanding bills for water, sewer and trash for approximately 5,000 residents.
One of the recipients of the forgiveness program appears to be in a Director level position within South Bend city government, earning more than $70,000 per year. According to documents uncovered by REAL News Michiana through a public records request, Alkeyna Aldridge received $382.52 in utility forgiveness. Aldridge appears to be the Director of Engagement & Economic Empowerment.
According to the South Bend City website, “The Engagement and Economic Empowerment team is here to empower all residents with access to economic opportunities and meaningful civic participation. Our team will strive to improve the quality of life for residents in neighborhoods and help facilitate community partnerships.”
The website also gives a quick bio of Aldridge, stating “is an experienced public servant with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education and government administration industries. She is especially skilled in community development and social services with a focus on participatory decision-making. When she’s not helping out her native and much loved South Bend, she’s doing improvements on her house, cooking, and generally being awesome.”
South Bend used federal COVID relief dollars for the forgiveness program, giving a blanket disbursement of up to $2,500 in utilities forgiveness. It’s unclear if Aldridge was part of the planning for this program and city officials will not answer any questions from RNM regarding the obvious conflict of interest. However, it is safe to assume the city’s Engagement and Economic Empowerment Director would have had some knowledge of the program. It’s just not clear if that knowledge led to Aldridge not paying her utility bill, knowing it would later be paid by the city.
The City of South Bend refused to provide RNM with the addresses that received the forgiveness. And, city officials will not discuss anything about the program with RNM. However, RNM was only able to identify one Alkeyna Aldridge living in the city.
Aldridge did not respond to RNM’s request for comment either.
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