HomeEconomyOpinion: Recent federal investments will bring generational change to Ohio’s cities

Opinion: Recent federal investments will bring generational change to Ohio’s cities

Mayor Justin Bibb

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are generational opportunities to change the trajectory of cities across the U.S.

And they could not come at a better time, as we continue to work our way out of the pandemic and stabilize our city, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our families. 

These investments from the Biden-Harris Administration have the potential to be transformational, but maximizing their impact is up to us. 

The City of Cleveland received the eighth largest allocation of ARPA funds, totaling $512 million. After taking office in January 2022, we launched Mayor Bibb’s Rescue & Transformation Plan to outline Cleveland’s priorities and set a robust process for evaluating how we spend ARPA and IIJA dollars and to better prepare the city to compete for additional funding. 

Our administration is doing this work through the Center for Economic Recovery, a strategic policy team responsible for shaping and evaluating ideas for ARPA-funded projects that systematically and equitably address our most urgent challenges.

We are not talking about spending ARPA dollars on one-off projects and programs. Such a list would be endless, and we would likely find ourselves in the same place we started. Instead of simply pushing money out the door, we are developing transformational investment strategies intended to reverse decades of decline and disinvestment, improve residents’ quality of life, address economic and social disparities and enhance our competitiveness.

We are laser focused on leveraging ARPA investment to solve Cleveland’s big, vexing issues like poverty, public safety, the digital divide, housing insecurity, lead contamination, education, and neighborhood disinvestment. These factors are responsible for decades of decline in our city. 

As we speak, we are in the process of moving legislation through Cleveland City Council for a third of our unencumbered ARPA dollars. Our first set of strategic priorities includes $50 million in proposals intended to address structural housing problems in the city through a new Housing Gap Financing Fund ($35 million), Home Repair Fund ($10 million) and a Developer Acquisition/Rehab Loan Pool ($5 million).

Housing is essential and these funds set us up to deal with housing challenges well into the future with a forward-thinking and long-term approach. 

It is imperative that, as mayors, we take the time to make the most strategic use of this influx of one-time funding—to ensure that what we begin today has an impact on generations to come. 

As we work to leverage these investments for their best and highest purposes, we must set our cities up to be intentional, vet proposals objectively, and be ready to act when additional opportunities arise. 

We can be a model for America with thoughtful urgency and collaborative execution on how we spend this money. In short, this is our shot, and we intend to make the most of it to benefit the residents we serve across our great city. 

Learn more at Mayor Bibb’s Rescue & Transformation Plan | City of Cleveland Ohio – Mayor Justin M. Bibb