Cleveland City Hall Facebook Live Video
Frank Jackson (5/4/2020).
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced Monday afternoon plans to disburse millions of both federal and local dollars to stanch the economic bleeding caused by the coronavirus.
Framed as "RestartCLE," a "strategic initiative" to re-open Cleveland's economy, the announcement Monday was mostly a delineation of how funds will be spent, both from the region's allotment of the Federal CARES act, via the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and from its own coffers.
These funds are significant. More than $11 million, the single largest chunk, will go toward rental assistance for those with no income and small landlords who have deferred rental payments from tenants. Jackson said the most common calls the city has received during the current crisis have had to do with rental payments.
An additional $4.25 million will be disbursed to area agencies who administer basic services: things like food, shelter and utility assistance. More than $2 million will also go to "special needs" assistance for those with disabilities and HIV/aids. Lastly, $500,000 will go towards the city's broadband program, paying for "backbone infrastructure" and equipment and devices for families of CMSD students to facilitate successful remote learning.
Roughly $10 million in city dollars will go toward small business loans to provide emergency working capital. Roughly $2 million of the total will be set aside for a category of businesses, like restaurants and beauty shops, that has been hardest hit. Jackson said that these city funds will be targeted at businesses that have had difficulty securing aid from other sources. Payments on the low-interest loans will largely be deferred until next year. Portions of the loans used for personal protective equipment, Jackson said, may be forgivable.
Jackson said that these funding decisions were merely a "basic outline" of the city's approach. The process for disbursing the federal dollars usually takes months, but Jackson said the current expedited process, (which will still include public comment), will hopefully only take 2-3 weeks. He said he suspected additional funds would become available in the next round of federal spending.
The mayor stressed throughout his remarks that while the city will follow Gov. Mike DeWine's guidance regarding re-opening the economy, the pandemic is far from over.
"It's important to remember that the risk posed by the virus is still real and will get more intense as we reopen," he said.
To combat what Jackson characterized as an inevitable surge in infections and deaths, he said the City of Cleveland would "double down" on its public health messaging. They have engaged medical experts and researchers at Cleveland State and are committed to using a public health approach to preventing the further spread of the virus as businesses re-open.
That means an extensive public education campaign, "multiple prevention activities," and "swift intervention" when problems arise. Jackson said that 14 community engagement specialists who were hired by the city earlier this year to focus on housing were now being converted to full-time coronavirus engagement specialists. Other City Hall employees with limited work responsibilities are also being asked to assume resident engagement duties.
"The risk remains very real," Jackson said. "As more and more restrictions are removed as we move forward, the people coming into contact with each other will intensify. It is essential for us to double down and triple down on the education side, the prevention side and the intervention side."
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