May 27, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Cuyahoga County Council, Executive Budish outline first plans for up to $50 million in ARPA spending

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In a joint release Wednesday, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Council members outlined a dozen initiatives they plan to fund this year using a small portion of the county’s American Rescue Plan money.

The wish-list, which must still be approved by council in coming weeks, focuses funding on ongoing pandemic programs, shoring up the county’s information technology systems, feeding the hungry, building a better workforce pipeline and remediating brownfields.

They represent the first allocations out of the county’s $240 million in federal ARPA aid, meant to assist with recovery from the pandemic, Budish said in a video posted Wednesday on the county’s YouTube page. The county had been waiting to dole out any of the funds, he said, until they received suggestions from department heads, area organizations and more than 500 community members for where the money is most needed.

“Now, we’re ready to spend a lot of money to bring the county out of the depths of the pandemic and to transform our future,” Budish said.

Proposed initiatives, so far, include:

  • $9 million to build up the county’s workforce pipeline through development, retention and attraction strategies, which Budish called a “tremendous business attraction tool.” It would build on the county’s current manufacturing partnership program, which has already placed 500 residents into manufacturing jobs, including formerly incarcerated individuals. By increasing exposure to manufacturing trades in school, increasing internship opportunities, and helping prepare high school seniors for jobs immediately after graduation, placements could increase to 2,500. “That would be transformative,” Budish said. Such programs are expected to receive another $9 million in matching funds, he said.
  • $5 million to help remediate brownfields, which the county says will augment state funding to bring the total spending power to about $25 million. “For us to grow and attract and retain businesses, we need to clean up contaminated lands and turn it into job-creating spaces,” council President Pernell Jones said in the video. Those interested in applying for the funding can email [email protected] for more information.
  • $5 million to help the Greater Cleveland Food Bank build a new, $40 million storage and distribution facility to better address the area’s increased demand. More than 1 in 5 residents relied on the food bank and partner agencies “and the pandemic just made it worse,” Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens said. The new facility will provide a larger kitchen for preparing meals and expanded storage space, and the existing building is expected to be converted into a food pantry, she said.
  • $4.3 million for IT capital improvements to replace at-risk, aging infrastructure and increase cybersecurity and reliability on county services.
  • $1.5 million to help bolster the work the Cuyahoga County Board of Health is doing to provide COVID-19 testing, vaccine distribution, and contact tracing.
  • $775,000 to help the county maintain its personal protective equipment stores, especially as healthcare staff and those who work with seniors and children are still required to use it. “The pandemic has shown us that we never truly know what the future will bring, so our best course of action has always been to stay prepared,” Councilwoman Meredith Turner said in the video.
  • $500,000 to sustain the inmate vaccine incentive plan, which Jones said has led 442 inmates to become fully vaccinated. The program offers offenders $50 phone cards, remote visitation, or commissary food items when they receive their shot.
  • $150,000 to fund two temporary grant writing positions “to enhance our opportunities to obtain” state and federal funds “to address things like transportation, energy, violent crime and housing,” Turner said. “We need help.”
  • $75,000 to expand the IT department’s current laptop management to better support mobile users still working from home. A request for bids is currently being developed.
  • $75,000 to provide the Personnel Review Commission testing and proctoring software to be able to remotely conduct civil service testing for new hires. Currently, the county requires new hires to be tested in person, which Budish says has slowed hiring during the pandemic.
  • $53,000 to beef up the county’s cybersecurity response efforts and secure personal data. Requests for bids are being drafts for a security analysis tool and an intrusion monitoring system.
  • An undetermined amount is expected to help the county pay the added cost of finding alternative housing solutions for youth emergency placements. At times, Budish said the county has had trouble finding proper placements for youth with extensive trauma or specialized needs, and they’ve had to stay at the Division of Children Services. “No children should be staying overnight in an office building. None,” he said. The county is now inviting proposals for safe and secure housing solutions.

More details about each program will be laid out in upcoming council meetings.

“For those who do not get what you hope to receive, please understand we’re doing our best,” Budish said of the funding, touting additional “flexibility” to come.

The county’s current plans only account for about $27 million in ARPA funding, with plans to spend no more than $50 million by the end of the year. The remaining $190 million, Budish said, will be up to the next county executive and council to allocate.

That was exciting news to Republican candidate Lee Weingart, who wants $100 million in county funding for his signature initiative, “10,000 homes for Cuyahoga County.” The total $600 million project would help 10,000 residents buy, build or renovate homes in the urban and first-ring suburbs.

His wish list would also include spending $10 million on an urban entrepreneurship program to support underserved individuals who have trouble accessing capital from traditional sources, $10-20 million providing cable and internet subsidies to help close the digital divide, and $10-15 million on providing tax incentives and grants to attract, grow or relocate businesses to the urban core, where he says the majority of the county’s unemployed live.

“I’m convinced that if we have wealth in those communities, we will need fewer government welfare programs,” he said.

One of two Democratic candidates, Chris Ronayne, is more reserved in his planning, saying his proposals will largely depend on discussions with council and how the market fares over the next year. But he listed spending priorities that closely align with the county’s current allocations, including a focus on workforce development, small business development, supply chain inclusion and capital needs in the community.

He called it “a sound move” for the county to spread allocations out over the next couple of years.

“Recovery does not begin and end this year,” he said. “I think we really need to work smart with our dollars and make sure those dollars are going to multiply.”

Source News