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from Crain’s Cleveland Business: Cleveland City Council hears City Hall’s plans for next round of ARPA spending

Posted August 30, 2022
2:00 pm

By Kim Palmer

What was set to be a three-hour meeting of the Cleveland City Council Caucus ballooned to six on Monday, Aug. 29, as members of Mayor Justin Bibb's administration, program heads and council members hashed out the newest round of American Rescue Plan Act proposals.

The 15 stimulus and relief proposals, totaling $102.5 million in spending, make up about one-third of the remaining $310 million in pandemic funds allocated to Cleveland, which received the eighth-largest distribution of COVID-19 money in the country.

Cleveland City Council president Blaine Griffin said the massive size of the pandemic relief package suggests the city needs to act soon to spend the stimulus funding.

"We have an emergency," Griffin said. "That's why it is very important for us to get these dollars out onto the streets, to mitigate that crisis"

Economic development

Of the total spending, 15% would go toward two programs dealing with economic development in the city.

A new pilot program, the "Minority Business Credit Enhancement Fund," would receive $5 million to help provide construction surety bonds for smaller, historically underrepresented firms. The revolving fund would offer flexible credit lines for businesses based in Cleveland and Cleveland residents, in partnership with private banks and other lending institutions.

The revolving loan comes at a critical time for construction business in the city, said Tessa Jackson, the city's director of economic development, during her presentation to council.

The other economic development program proposes sending $7.5 million to the "Opportunity CLE Fund," a fund designed to raise $50 million, primarily through contributions from area banks, to support real estate and business development projects in low-income communities.

The program would use a mix of public and philanthropic contributions for low-interest loans as part of a revolving pool of money managed by Cleveland Development Advisors.

"There has not been a fund like this in the city before," the city's chief integrated development officer, Jeff Epstein, told council.

In an attempt to incentivize workforce participation in Cleveland's battered childcare industry, the plan also proposes the city spend nearly $2.7 million for hiring and retention bonuses and distribute nearly $2 million in childcare scholarships for recently employed parents who do not qualify for existing programs.


Half of the proposed spending, $50 million, is set to go toward three housing programs designed to spur the development of both affordable and market-rate construction in areas of the city that have not seen much development.

About $35 million would go toward gap funding intended to incentivize both renovation and construction in the city's low-income areas, with $25 million intended to create 1,500 affordable housing units and $10 million geared toward the building of 1,650 market-rate housing units.

Another $5 million is proposed to create a revolving loan pool to provide low-interest capital for small, mostly minority contractors and community development corporations for renovations where "private banks don't typically provide funding," according to the presentation to council.

The remaining $10 million in housing funding is set aside for grants and low- and no-interest loans for home repairs.

Other spending

Other items include a new roof for City Hall, with a price tag of more than $16 million; $1 million to help Legal Aid provide legal representation for renters facing eviction as moratoriums phase out; and $300,000 to increase vaccination rates in the city by offering cash rewards.

In total, with half of the spending designated for housing and 15% set aside for economic development, the rest of the plan breaks down this way: 16% for modernizing City Hall; 14% for domestic and sexual violence programs; 3% to help arts and neighborhoods; 2% for education; and less than 1% for COVID vaccination.

The plan was created by Bibb's Center for Economic Recovery, a group of subject experts tasked with evaluating the spending programs. Some council members on Monday, though, voiced concern that their presentation did not have enough detail to back up the spending.

Griffin told council members multiple pieces of legislation will be presented for a first reading on Monday, Sept. 12. He urged members who had questions about the details of the proposals to dig deeper into the individual proposals.

Griffin added that he wants to see the spending and the dispersal of funds by the final quarter of this year.

"We have to make start moving toward decisions," he said. "People are suffering."

Original story can be found at Crain's Cleveland Business: Cleveland City Council hears City Hall's plans for next round of ARPA spending

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