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Cleveland Unveils Grant, Loan Programs To Aid Economic Recovery

The city announced several programs to provide financial aid for both residents and businesses.[Matt Richmond / ideastream]
Cleveland City Hall

The City of Cleveland has launched a strategic plan to address the economic impact of the coronavirus, including financial aid programs for residents and local businesses.

The city is preparing to start the reopening process, Mayor Frank Jackson said in a Monday press conference. A potential surge in cases is anticipated, Jackson said, and city officials are already looking for ways to reduce the virus’ impact moving forward.

“If we do not do this properly, then all of the efforts by the federal government, the state government or local government, in terms of attempting to restart our economy… will be a waste of money,” Jackson said.

The strategic plan aims to create relief for those impacted in the immediate term, Jackson said, but can be built on as needed.

Relief For Cleveland Residents

Three new relief programs focus on aid for residents facing unemployment, eviction, or other negative financial impact from the pandemic. The programs amount to roughly $18 million in aid and rely on multiple sources of funding, including some support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Rental assistance will get the bulk of the funding, Jackson said, because that is where the city has seen the highest demand for help.

“This is where – outside of food assistance, which has a substantial network of providers – we are seeing the largest increase in calls for service,” Jackson said.

The city will work with agencies already familiar with delivering this kind of aid to assess eligibility and distribute the funds, Jackson said.

Plans include:

  • $11.3 million in rental assistance. The city aims to provide immediate relief to residents on the verge of eviction, Jackson said. The fund will prioritize residents currently without income, and recipients will need monthly certification that they are not getting a paycheck or unemployment. The fund also will assist landlords who own a small number of properties where renters have deferred payments.
  • $4.25 million for Basic Needs Assistance. The program will cover food banks, food delivery services, utilities, senior services, homeless outreach and referrals to other forms of aid. The city will work with agencies experienced in providing such services, Jackson said.
  • 2.5 million for Special Needs Assistance. The fund will focus on the city’s homeless and those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Local officials already have infrastructure in place to assist these populations, Jackson said, and the money will help expand those services. That includes decentralizing the homeless population by putting at-risk people in hotels rather than shelters, and covering the increased costs for additional sanitization work and hazard pay.

New Loan Options For Local Businesses

The city is also offering more than $10 million in loans to businesses impacted by the coronavirus, Jackson said. The loans will vary based on business size, and the effort includes a specific program for those that are facing changes to operational policies.

The programs are setting up infrastructure that can be expanded on and built out if needed, Jackson said, while still being effective right away.

“This is a basic outline of the direction we are going in as we attempt to protect the interests of people and businesses in the City of Cleveland,” Jackson said.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate a negative impact of the pandemic on revenue and cash flow, Jackson said, as well as the potential to return to pre-coronavirus levels of employment and operation.

Funding and programs include:

  • $5.5 million for Restoration Working Capital. Both large and small businesses can apply for the loan program, which will provide assistance for operational costs such as rent, mortgage, utilities and payroll. Large businesses can receive loans of up to $100,000, and small businesses can be loaned up to $25,000. Preference will be given to businesses unable to access other forms of relief.
  • $3 million for Emergency Working Capital. Small businesses can apply for a low-interest loan of up to $10,000 toward operational costs. That includes rent, mortgage, utilities and payroll. Payment is deferred until January 2021.
  • $2 million for Emergency Working Capital – Specially Impacted Businesses. Small, local businesses facing a significant impact from the virus, such as restaurants, hair salons or barber shops, can apply for a loan of up to $20,000. The loan can go toward operational costs and the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE). Up to 50 percent of the loan is forgivable if it is associated with the cost of PPE. Applicants must provide a sustainability plan outlining changes being made due to the virus.

Additional Efforts Cover Education, Technology Access

The city is also investing $500,000 in expanding broadband connectivity for Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), students now expected to complete schoolwork from home.

CMSD is already planning a $2.4 million investment of its own to provide internet access to families and the city is working with the school district to take that total to nearly $3 million, Jackson said.

“This investment will support the backbone infrastructure, household equipment and devices necessary for students to access the internet and complete their assignments online,” Jackson said.

A survey conducted by CMSD last month found roughly two thirds of district households did not have access to a laptop, computer or similar device, and one third of families lacks reliable internet access. CMSD is supplying devices to students and the program aims to get internet access to another 1,000 households with school-age children.

The city is also working with hospitals and long-term care facilities to assess PPE supplies and testing capabilities, Jackson said. The strategic plan also includes work to improve isolation and contact tracing methods for residents who test positive.

“As we gradually open this economy and it comes that more and more restrictions are removed on more types of business, as we move through May, June and July, exposure of people will intensify,” Jackson said. “It is essential for us to double down on the education side, the prevention side, and the intervention side.”

Coronavirus efforts also will include launching a city-wide educational campaign, Jackson said, explaining the risks of the virus, methods of transmission, preventative measures and what to do if you have symptoms.