With Recovery Plan Funding Totals Revealed, Local Communities Start Planning

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city of Youngstown’s allocation from the American Rescue Plan will be lower than earlier estimates but will still approach $83 million.

Also, several local communities that had been expected to receive allocations were not on the list released by the U.S. Department of the Treasury when it announced the launch of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Created by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the funds will provide $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.

Youngstown still will receive the largest share of funds among Mahoning Valley communities. It will get $82.78 million, down nearly $6 million earlier allocation estimates that were announced in March by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio. 

Nikki Posterli, chief of staff to Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and director of community planning and economic development for the city, said the city was waiting to hear back from the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for information regarding the allocation amount.  

According to the information from the Treasury, Warren will get $28.68 million, down just over $1 million from what was projected two months ago. 

Mahoning County is slated to receive $44.42 million, up $70,000 from the March projection, and Trumbull County will receive $38.45 million, up $50,000. Columbiana County will get $19.79 million, up $30,000 from an earlier estimate by the National League of Cities.    

The state of Ohio will receive $5.37 billion, plus an additional $843.73 million to be distributed to non-entitlement units of local government. 

The March projection released by Ryan’s office included projections for more than a dozen Valley communities that did not appear on Monday’s list. Those included the cities of Campbell, Struthers, Cortland and Niles, and the villages of Newton Falls, Lowellville and Poland. 

In Pennsylvania, Sharon will receive $14.38 million, the only community in Mercer or Lawrence counties on the list of cities specifically designated to receive funds.  Lawrence County is slated to receive $16.61 million and Mercer County $21.25 million. 

Pennsylvania will receive $7.29 billion plus $983.01 million for non-entitlement units of local government. 

Local governments received federal guidance on how they can spend the designated funds, with the states receiving guidance for distribution to non-entitlement units expected next week. 

Money should expect to receive the funds in two tranches, with 50% beginning this month and the balance a year later, according to Treasury documents. 

Municipalities and local governments will have “broad flexibility to decide how best to use” the finding to meet their needs to support public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic, replace lost public sector revenue, provide premium pay for essential workers and invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. 

Local officials now are reviewing the guidance they received on how to spend the funds. 

“The guidance was just released [Monday]. We want to make sure we can review that. The parameters that are set are the parameters that we are going to follow,” Posterli said. 

Mayor Brown is planning a strategic planning session toward the end of May with City Council, members of the administration and the community to get input on how to best utilize the funds, she said. 

Bob Fiscus, Sharon’s city manager, said the city received 150 pages of guidance to review. It plans to move cautiously and engage community stakeholders to get their input on what is needed. 

City officials are talking to anchor business, local businesses and developers to hear what their challenges over the past year have been, what sustainability issues they have had and how the city can best assist them, he said. In the long term, officials also are considering how the funds can be used to grow the local economy and promote continued business investment. 

“As we process this, we want to make sure we program those funds in a way to directly impact neighborhoods and businesses,” Fiscus said. 

Treasury Secretary Janey Yellen said the policy behind the federal funds is builds on the lessons learned during the Great Recession.

“During the Great Recession, when cities and states were facing similar revenue shortfalls, the federal government didn’t provide enough aid to close the gap. That was an error,” she said in a White House statement Monday. “Insufficient relief meant that cities had to slash spending, and that austerity undermined the broader recovery. With today’s announcement, we are charting a very different – and much faster – course back to prosperity.”

In a separate statement, Ryan called the funding a “lifeline.”

“This funding will change the course of daily life for working Americans now – and for years to come. Our local communities have been in desperate need of this funding to pay for essential jobs and services.” he said. “This package is a lifeline for our state and local governments to get through this crisis, and I’m confident it will give them a steady foundation to build on for years to come.” 

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.