CLEVELAND, Ohio – More than a third of Cuyahoga County’s $240 million in US federal bailout dollars may soon be earmarked for county council members and the county executive for community projects to be determined of their choice.
In total, discretionary accounts are expected to total $86 million, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer recently found out. The first $66 million will be split equally among each of the 11 county council members, with the remaining $20 million to be distributed by executive Armond Budish.
The county has not officially announced the proposed funds, but is expected to do so in the coming weeks as Budish and council members continue to roll out their spending plans through videos posted to the county’s YouTube page.
County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan declined to comment on the funds on Tuesday, but cleveland.com confirmed them with several sources.
Council Chairman Pernel Jones confirmed the money was to be used for community development projects to help the county recover from the coronavirus pandemic. He compared this to how the council has used the community supplemental grant program and casino tax revenue in the past for projects such as building the Lake Euclid Trail, revamping Bradstreet’s Landing in Rocky River , the Lake Coe de Berea redevelopment and the Sherwin-Williams headquarters under construction. downtown Cleveland.
He rejected comparing slush fund allocations and noted two mechanisms in place to ensure accountability. First, Jones said, the board is hiring an auditing firm to ensure projects meet federal guidelines for how ARPA dollars can be spent, and second, the board will review and vote on all projects.
“This process has proven to be a fair and successful model for getting funds where they are needed most while having the greatest impact,” he said in an emailed statement. “Every ARPA dollar will be discussed in open public meetings and approved by either the Board or the Board of Control.”
The board of control approves expenditures below $500,000, while the board must approve larger amounts.
Council members also plan to work with community stakeholders and county mayors to identify where funds are most needed.
“Nothing is done by council members in a vacuum,” he said. cleveland.com in a separate telephone interview.
District 3 County Councilor Martin Sweeney said the council settled the $66 million after first hearing a lower amount.
He also compared the discretionary funds proposed by the county to similar accounts he used when he was on Cleveland City Council, such as the casino tax revenue fund. Eighty-five percent of the revenue went to the city’s general fund, but the remaining 15% was divided among council members.
The money allowed them to pursue important projects in their neighborhoods that other leaders were unaware of, Sweeney said, and members could “trade” money with each other to get the amount they needed. .
“It just gave some ability to work with the administration on specific neighborhood-based things,” Sweeney said.
In 2021, city council members used casino money to help buy food cards for low-income families during the pandemic, or to support things like lawn care programs for seniors, beautification projects and youth programs in their neighborhoods.
As with county funding, these projects also required final approval from city council, but most proposals pass “on first reading so that money gets to organizations as quickly as possible.” according to the city hall website.
The county’s proposed discretionary fund is in addition to more than $57 million in ARPA spending that has already been pledged for various county programs and projects. Budish said he intended to leave another $50 million to be allocated in 2024 by the next administration, which would still leave about $47 million to distribute.