Cuyahoga County Council Member Miller First to Outline Process for Requesting ARPA Funds

Cuyahoga County Council Member Dale Miller, Cuyahoga County Council District 2, spoke at the first public meeting of the Greater Cleveland American Rescue Plan Coalition meeting last week and referenced the process he is using to consider proposals for up to $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding in his district (District 2 comprises all of Lakewood, Brook Park, Cleveland Ward 17, and most of Cleveland Ward 16). The week before, he released a District 2 ARPA Request for Proposal and Application and set a deadline of June 10 for submission of proposals. The accompanying press release reiterated that any proposals that are reviewed and recommended for funding would also need to be approved by Cuyahoga County Council.

ARPA distribution to Cuyahoga County’s 11 districts and Cleveland’s 17 wards

This announcement followed one earlier this spring when Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Cuyahoga County Council President Pernel Jones, Jr. announced that $66 million of the county’s $241 million American Rescue Plan Act state and local recovery fiscal funds would be set aside and equally divided among the county’s 11 council districts to support community-based projects. Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has released a Rescue and Transformation Plan that includes a Civic Participation Fund where “Cleveland’s 17 wards can identify important neighborhood projects and advocate for change at the hyper-local level in partnership with City Council.”

The concept of dividing a portion of the funds equally among wards or districts is a fairly common one in Ohio.

The concept of dividing a portion of the funds equally among wards or districts is a fairly common one in Ohio; particularly for federal funds or funds that become newly available. Typically, communities only set aside a portion of funds for initiatives of this type. One example of this is how Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland handled casino revenue funds; both the city and county reserve the largest share of funds for projects or general operating support that has county or city-wide impact. But then a portion of funds are more community-focused, relying on the direction of individual council members. For example, in 2021, Cuyahoga County invested casino funds on reducing the deer population in South Euclid, a Rock Colavito statue in Little Italy, and the Northeast Ohio Alliance of Hope Grocery Store in East Cleveland. During the same time period, Cleveland City Council members used their share of casino revenue funds for senior lawn care, beautification and art projects, youth programs including football and cheerleading, digital literacy programs, and anti-hunger efforts.

District 2 proposals for one-time ARPA funds

Council Member Miller RFP states that “proposals are expected to be for use of one-time money, as opposed to ongoing operations. Proposals beneficial in the areas of community development and place-making, economic development, environment, social services or cultural infrastructure, and technical innovation are encouraged. Projects for which other substantial funding streams are available, such as road and bridge projects, are less likely to be considered.”

Successful proposals will likely want to focus on projects in Cuyahoga County Council District 2.

Successful proposals will likely want to focus on projects in Cuyahoga County Council District 2, but $500,000 is being designated for “projects of countywide significance” that have a “significant impact in Cuyahoga County Council District 2.” The maximum amount that can be requested is $1.5 million, and applicants can be “municipalities, community development corporations, or non-profit organizations.”

How District 2 ARPA projects will be chosen

The RFP suggests that proposals will be reviewed and scored, but also says that “if a very large number of applications is received, there may be an initial review to select a smaller number of applications for full scoring.” In terms of scoring, proposals can earn up to 100 points. The largest number of points (40) will be awarded for “project impact,” followed by 20 points for “applicant capacity,” 20 points for proposal specificity and feasibility, and then 10 points each for “project readiness” and “leverage.” Reviewers will use the scoring results to determine how much money to allocate and which projects to recommend. The RFP states that “some modest deviation from the ranking of applications may be considered to achieve a good geographic distribution of projects within the district.” The funding recommendations will then be turned into legislation and submitted to Cuyahoga County Council for approval.

Cuyahoga County Council has established an American Rescue Plan Act section on their webpage.

Cuyahoga County Council has established an American Rescue Plan Act section on their webpage. It provides a good overview of already proposed and/or approved uses of ARPA funds. At this point it is not clear whether other Cuyahoga County council members will follow the same approach as Council Member Miller when it comes to considering funding requests for the district. When asked during the GCARP Coalition Public Meeting about how people could apply for funds, Council Member Miller encouraged community members to reach out to their County Council Member directly.

Evaluation Criteria Likely to Evolve

If all ten other council members decide to request similar and/or different information it could end up being administratively burdensome both for the County and potential applicants who may operate programs or services in more than one district. Of note, the proposal review metrics outlined by Council Member Miller are different from the evaluation metrics outlined by Mayor Bibb. The Mayor’s measures include things like equity and inclusion, global competitiveness and differentiation, and environmental sustainability. It seems likely that the way that County and City policy makers review ARPA funding will evolve over time; possibly as new challenges and/or opportunities arise. [LINK TO GCARPC webpage Community Solutions’ Greater Cleveland American Rescue Plan Coalition] will be following these developments and sharing them regularly during public meetings.