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Cleveland City Council approves American Rescue Plan spending on social services

 A U.S. flag flies above Cleveland City Hall at 601 Lakeside Avenue.
Nick Castele
/
Ideastream Public Media
A U.S. flag flies above Cleveland City Hall at 601 Lakeside Avenue.

Cleveland City Council approved $10.6 million in federal stimulus funding for social service programs in the latest round of spending from the city’s $512 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation.

The spending is just a portion of the $102.5 million in ARPA proposals that council and Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration have announced so far this year.

Council President Blaine Griffin said council and the administration are working on a schedule of committee hearings for the rest of the proposal, which includes $50 million to build and renovate housing.

“I think we have a good process to really move expeditiously or pretty fast on these dollars, but still make sure we have extensive oversight,” Griffin said.

Council on Monday night approved about $2.7 million to give early childhood education workers signing and retention bonuses. Another $1.9 million would help families pay for childcare. The nonprofit Starting Point will administer both programs.

The funding will support $500 signing bonuses for 500 people starting or returning to work in the early education field. Retention bonuses of $250 will be available for 5,000 people working in licensed childcare programs in Cleveland. A round of $200 retention bonuses would be available six months after that.

Council also signed off on funding for several organizations that work with survivors of abuse or sexual assault. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center will receive $2.5 million. Journey Center for Safety and Healing was approved for $1.75 million. Canopy, which serves children who have survived abuse, will receive $500,000.

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland’s right to counsel initiative, which provides legal representation for tenants facing eviction, will receive $1 million. Council launched the program in 2019 and 2020 and slated $500,000 for the service in the 2022 city budget.

Outside of the social services spending, council approved $2.3 million to install dashboard cameras in police cruisers. Council’s safety committee will hold a hearing Sept. 28 on a proposal to spend ARPA funding on the ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology, committee chair Michael Polensek said.

Bibb administration officials presented the $102.5 million proposal to council in late August, following the June announcement of a $53 million plan for ARPA funds floated by Griffin and council that also put a focus on housing programs.

The proposal laid out in August constituted one third of the $310 million in ARPA money remaining to be allocated, according to a city presentation. Federal rules require Cleveland to allocate all of its ARPA funding by 2024. The money must be fully spent by 2026.

During a hearing on ARPA spending Monday afternoon, Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy asked the administration how it would ensure that grantees exhaust their funds by the deadline.

“At what point do we say, ‘Hey, we have to pull this money back and reallocate it or something?’” Kazy asked. “I mean, we’ve got a short window here.”

Finance Director Ahmed Abonamah said the city is writing provisions into its agreements with grantees requiring them to report their spending back to city officials. The city would be able to recoup money from organizations that don’t spend ARPA dollars fast enough, he said.

The city has also hired the law firm Bricker and Eckler to review ARPA spending proposals to make sure they comply with federal guidelines. Council on Monday night approved a request to expand its contract with Bricker from $191,000 to $400,000.

Nick Castele is a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media.