Warren OKs $2M in ARP Funds for Businesses, Nonprofits

WARREN, Ohio – The city is making $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds available to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the coming weeks.

The city’s Board of Control Wednesday approved allocating $1.5 million out of the city’s $28.6 million in ARPA funds for a loan fund to be administered by Valley Partners, Liberty Township. Another $500,000 is being directed to the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley in Youngstown to operate a grant fund for nonprofits.

The two programs, both of which aim to assist organizations in the city, were approved by City Council last month.

The city looked for several months at how other communities handled ARPA-funded economic development loan programs, Mayor Doug Franklin said.

“We’ve vetted this whole process,” Franklin said. “I would have wished it would have been done a little earlier, as always. You have to do it right rather than do it fast.”

The Warren City Revolving Loan Fund will operate the $2 million fund, said Teresa Miller, Valley Partners’ executive director. The standard maximum loan size will be $250,000, but the loan committee could consider higher amounts.

“You can’t give $1.5 million to one entity, because you can’t help anybody else. And the whole point is to help as many businesses as we can,” Franklin said.

The loan fund will target for-profit small businesses, defined as having 100 or fewer employees. Startups will be eligible, but they will have to provide “a very thorough and robust business plan” to be considered for funding, Miller said. Because these are ARPA funds, the applicants will need to demonstrate how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their business or their ability to start a business.

“You can use it for working capital, equipment, fixed assets,” she said. Funds will be lent at two points below the prime rate, but not lower than 3%. When the program will open for applications is still being determined.

The $1.5 million fund is structured strictly as a loan program, but portions of the loans could be forgiven if thresholds such as job creation are met, Franklin said.

“We’re excited about it,” he said.  

The Community Foundation also is in the process of determining when the application process for the grant fund will be opened, Casey Krell, director of supporting organizations and donor services, said. Awarded grants will address a community need or negative impact of the pandemic emergency “in response to the disease itself or the harmful consequences of the economic disruption,” she said. 

The grant fund doesn’t have a set cap, with decisions about awards left to the Community Foundation, Franklin said. As with the loan fund, the intent is to assist as many organizations as possible.

“Obviously, we don’t want to do large amounts because that just disables us from doing more grants,” he said. 

Eligible nonprofit organizations will be able to submit applications through an online portal, Krell said. Information will be shared in the coming weeks about guidelines, eligibility criteria and deadlines. The foundation originally intended to align the fund with its existing cycles, but the next deadline is July 15 and the following one wouldn’t be until October.

“So we’ll probably hold a special grant cycle just for this,” Krell said. “We don’t want to wait too long. But we also don’t want to rush and open and have a deadline and have folks miss that opportunity.”

In other business, the board approved the installation of a 320-foot section of 8-inch pipe along Pine Avenue Southeast. Stericycle, 1901 Pine Ave. SE, is paying roughly $83,000 to install the pipe. It will be used to bypass a section of the existing waterline that was narrowed from 12 inches to 6 inches to serve a residential neighborhood that no longer exists, according to Franco Lucarelli, Warren water department director.

That existing 6-inch pipe likely has only 3 inches of capacity because of accumulation of materials over the years, he said. The increased water capacity also will benefit any entity that takes over the BDM Steel property, which extends where the 8-inch line will be added.

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