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Cleveland City Council considers alternatives for ARPA spending, holds off on altering mayor's plan

Cleveland City Council offered few specifics Tuesday in a committee hearing on Mayor Frank Jackson’s proposed COVID relief spending, despite earlier criticism of the plan.

Two housing nonprofits presented council members with alternative plans for using the $80 million the mayor wants to put toward community and economic development. After several hours of discussion, however, no amendments to the mayor’s plan were offered.

The Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee held the legislation until next week. It also has to get through Finance Committee before final passage. The last meeting before a new mayor and five new councilmembers arrive is Dec.6.

“Come next week with your plan, bring it to the table, let’s amend everything we need to amend and let’s pass it. Let’s get it through,” said Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones, one of the members leaving at the end of the year.

If the $122 million spending plan is approved, the city will have budgeted half of the $511 million Cleveland is expected to received from the American Rescue Plan Act. The second half is expected next year.

In addition to spending about $80 million on community and economic development, Jackson's plan calls for spending $26 million on public safety and $15 million on demolitions. Council has already passed legislation allocating up to $20 million for citywide broadband and $5 million for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Some members of council, led by Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack, sought to create an alternative plan shortly after Jackson introduced his proposal. But so far no other legislation has been introduced, nor have amendments to Jackson’s proposal.

Kevin Nowak of CHN Housing Partners told council Tuesday that spending $10 million rehabilitating 500 homes could have a citywide impact.

“So many of our homes within the city of Cleveland need quite a bit of tender loving care,” Nowak said. “And we’re not taking about HGTV repairs, we’re talking about systems repairs that can be really expensive.”

Under CHN’s proposal, homeowners would be eligible for grants of up to $20,000. There would be an additional $1.5 million for loans.

The Jackson administration is proposing about $7 million for home rehab grants.

CHN and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress also proposed $6.6 million to renovate older, small apartment buildings around the city and $5 million for down payment assistance.

“What we saw today, in my mind, reflects an initiative to build wealth in our average, everyday residents that is not building a building next to their home and hoping it spills over into their lives and into their livelihoods,” McCormack said.

While Mayor Jackson’s proposal includes similar programs, it provides less money and targets certain neighborhoods while leaving others out. Jackson also included support for developers and their individual projects.

None of the housing nonprofits’ ideas were used to amend the mayor’s legislation, but councilmembers were encouraged to submit amendments when Finance takes up the legislation.

“We gotta start bringing clarity around what we’re going to keep in, what we’re going to take out,” said Council President-elect Blaine Griffin.

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.