April 27, 2021, updated June 30, 2021, updated December 14, 2021
Cuyahoga County is expected to receive $240 million under the federal 2021 American Recovery Act (ARPA). The first payment of half of the amount of $120 million has been received and the second payment should be received a year later.
The federal government has not yet released detailed guidance on how these funds may be spent, but the legislation authorizes four broad categories:
Any programs that are directly responsive to protecting health during the pandemic and helping those who have suffered economic losses due to the pandemic, such as restaurants, performing arts facilities, and community organizations, and individuals who need supports such as rental assistance.
Supplemental pay to employees required to work under hazardous conditions due to the pandemic.
Direct governmental services, to the extent that federal funds used to provide these services replace revenue lost as a result of the pandemic.
Water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Under the federal legislation, we have until the end of 2024 to determine how these funds will be spent and until the end of 2026 to actually spend the money. Council and the Executive have a agreed on a broad framework of several "buckets" of categories for which these funds will be spent, as follows:
Providing direct services through replacement of revenue lost due to the pandemic.
Health and safety measures and economic development assistance in response to the pandemic.
Innovative initiatives, especially related to broadband, water, and environment.
Community development projects developed with the help of Councilpersons.
“These funds will greatly help out county respond to many community needs that have emerged due to the pandemic, especially rental and mortgage assistance, homelessness response, and business and community organization assistance,” Councilman Dale Miller stated. “I am hopeful that these funds will also help us do some things that urgently need to be done but for which in the past we have not been able to find money for, such as making broadband internet access widely available in the county, regardless of income or geographic location," he added. "In particular, it appears that there may be ways to use some of these funds for projects related to climate change and clean energy, and I am exploring these options," he concluded.
Councilman Miller is preparing a proposal to spend $15-20 million in ARPA funds on climate change response and clean energy. Programs being considered include energy efficiency retrofits to county buildings, assistance to small businesses for energy efficiency improvements, funding to expand the Regional Sewer Districts program of green infrastructure grants to municipalities, assistance to businesses and residents for solar energy installation, and assistance for installation of home electric vehicle charging capability. Councilman Miller is working with Council and administration staff and community partners to flesh these programs out in sufficient detail to create workable programs.
Councilman Miller held a preliminary discussion on these funds in the Finance and Budgeting Committee in May and will actively work with his colleagues and the administration to come up with the best possible uses for this money to make transformational changes for our county.