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Cleveland To Submit Proposals For $511 Million In COVID Relief Spending

Members of Cleveland City Council's Finance Committee during a meeting on American Rescue Plan Act funding coming to the city. [Cleveland City Council]
Cleveland city council virtual meeting

Cleveland is drafting an early plan for spending $511 million in COVID-19 relief money and will send the proposal to the U.S. Treasury Department for approval by the end of the month.

The city has received half that money already and will get the other half next year. In general the money has to be spent to make up for impacts of the pandemic, but that is open to some interpretation.

Mayor Frank Jackson’s Chief of Staff Sharon Dumas told city council Monday the money could be used to cover things like lead mitigation or house demolition, if the proposal is properly written.

“I think that they’re going to recognize that in urban areas we have some issues that were more adversely impacted, or stalled, as a result of COVID,” Dumas said.

A long list of frequently asked questions released by the Treasury Department in May and updated in July outlines many of the ways the money can be spent, including on ongoing public health measures to combat COVID or direct checks to businesses and individuals to make up for losses.

City council members have submitted ideas for how to spend the money to Jackson’s administration. Dumas did not address those during Monday’s meeting.

There appears to be a consensus among councilmembers that expanding access to broadband will be a priority.

“In Ward 9, we need it badly,” Councilman Kevin Conwell said. “In order for my neighborhood to grow, in order for my neighborhood to build and to bring in economic development, we need broadband.”

The Treasury Department gives the go-ahead to broadband expansion in underserved neighborhoods. It also allows for the hiring of more police officers, even above pre-pandemic levels, “where the funds are directly focused on advancing community policing strategies” in areas experiencing increased gun violence since the pandemic began. Funding can also go toward technology or equipment purchases for police and violence intervention programs like the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance.

Dumas gave no details on the programs or dollar amounts that will be in their proposal, other than to say $108 million will go into the general fund to make up for lost revenue.

During a May 13 press conference, Jackson laid out his broad plans, including making up for lost revenue and neighborhood development but offered few details. 

Dumas said Monday that residents also suggested thousands of ideas for spending the money but the city is still compiling the list before sharing with council.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.