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Where should Cleveland's next $255 million in federal pandemic funds be used?

Policy Matters Ohio released reports on funding use
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Where should Cleveland's next $255M in federal pandemic funds be used?
Posted at 9:49 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 06:29:33-04

CLEVELAND — Cleveland city leaders are facing a huge task over the next several months, how to best use the final $255 million in American Rescue Plan Act money set to be sent to the city in June.

Delores Gray is a Cleveland grandmother, who is also a frontline worker, counseling distressed women through herBrickHouse Wellness program. Gray believes a significant portion of the final ARPA dollars coming to Cleveland should help city youth, senior citizens, and the agency hurt by the pandemic that serves them.

“This decision is so huge for the City of Cleveland," Gray said. “There’s a lot of other nursing homes that are closing, and also think that they should put money into helping people who had jobs there.”

“For children, start with the recreation centers and school programs. If you don't have daycares, parents have a hard time working. The youth, children, dealing with daycares, and the senior citizens with the nursing homes as well. As well as other housing issues that are going on with seniors in the community.”

Zach Schiller, Research Director for Policy Matters Ohio, pointed to a series of reports released by his agency which included a menu of ideas on how Cleveland can best use ARPA funding on the way this summer. Schiller said a large portion of the funding should be used to stabilize families, working people, childcare, and support Cleveland students who got behind academically due to the pandemic.

“This is our money to be spent on us and we can have a role in determining that," Schiller said. “This money can be used to provide special programming, summer school you name it, to try and help kids recover some of what they lost, or to get back up to speed.”

“We know that there’s been a real mental health crisis that’s been underlined by COVID, and again especially among young people. With daycare centers, on both ends, we need to provide people resources so they can afford it, and we need to provide resources to the centers so that they have the places where kids can go.”

Where should Cleveland's next $255M in federal pandemic funds be used?

Cleveland City Council President Blaine Griffin said all 17 council members are preparing their own lists on how the ARPA funds should be used, as city council waits for recommendations from Mayor Justin Bibb and his administration. Griffin said city leaders have collected public input in the form of petitions and community meetings. Griffin said the city must agree on one plan and send it to the federal government by the beginning of 2024.

“We want to be strategic, we want to be smart," Griffin said. “The federal government gave us this money to address a crisis.”

"From the public, a few things that we hear repeatedly are demolition, dollars for home rehabilitation, and then we also get a lot of social service requests. Other requests are youth support, jobs, development, family services, social services, or it can be catalytic projects like closing the digital divide."

"Still it's not enough to really cover all of the distress that our city and our community is coming up from under after COVID-19. If we make a $5 to $10 to $15 million commitment to demolition, then we would love to see other organizations or financial institutions, like banks and others, really help us.”

“We’re still going have to put an amount in there for loss recovery, we’re still going to have to put a pot in there for safety, we’re still going to have to put a pot aside for housing. And then we definitely need to support some of the social service issues.”

Griffin said the city council policy and research team compiled information on three different layers; what do the federal rules allow when it comes to using the funding; identifying citywide goals; and identifying ward-specific goals. Griffin said all the funds need to be allocated by 2024 and expended by 2026.

Griffin said part of the first $255 million in ARPA funds sent to Cleveland last summer were used in various ways including; $17 million to help solve Cleveland's lead paint issue, which leveraged another $50 million in local grants; $26 million for safety initiatives, including police and fire vehicles, and surveillance cameras; $10 million in budget loss recovery due to the pandemic; $25 million for broadband internet development; and $5 million for the Cleveland Food Bank.