YOUNGSTOWN – Debate over how to best use the billions of dollars awarded to local communities via the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 could consume, as the cliche goes, more paper than there are trees. One use we unequivocally applaud is dedicating a portion of those local funds to help businesses.
The legislation allocated $350 billion to state, territorial, local and tribal governments to support their response to, and recovery from, the pandemic. Many local government entities established funds to provide loans and grants directly to businesses.
Trumbull County allocated $2 million to Valley Partners – which administered similar programs for other local governments – to fund grants that were dispersed within three months. Trumbull then provided another $1 million for a revolving loan fund, all of which has been lent but can be lent again once current borrowers repay their loans, according to Teresa Miller, Valley Partners executive director.
In late 2021, Mahoning County provided Valley Partners $2 million for a revolving loan fund and recently added another $1 million, of which about $230,000 remains available.
Earlier this year, the city of Youngstown established a $2 million revolving loan fund, with $1 million in loans closed so far and $800,000 pending, leaving about $200,000 available. The city also set aside $1 million to assist businesses with exterior improvements such as new façades, window replacements and parking lot upgrades, of which $440,000 remains available.
More recently, the city of Warren established its $1.5 million revolving loan fund through Valley Partners to assist businesses and a $500,000 grant program to help nonprofits. Warren also has its own exterior improvements program funded by ARPA money and managed by the Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp. This has helped more than 100 businesses. They include city mainstays – Café 422, Elm Road Triple Drive-In Theater, Thumm’s Bike & Clock and All American Cards and Comics – as well as newer enterprises such as Cockeye Creamery, Modern Methods Brewing Co. and Charbenay’s Wine on the River.
The city of Sharon has used its share of ARPA money to spur redevelopment of several properties, including converting a Chestnut Avenue building into a space that will house multiple dining and entertainment concepts, and assisting with the launch of an aquaponics operation at The Landing.
Across the region, ARPA funds have been used to help with the reopening of the storied Golden Dawn restaurant on Youngstown’s north side; boosted Ridgeview Tours, a Trumbull County business in the tourism industry that was particularly hard hit by the pandemic; and helped the Yosteria restaurant, which used both revolving loan and façade funds for its Smoky Hollow location.
The ARPA funds have provided a valuable tool for communities to help businesses. Qualifying companies should avail themselves of these programs.