Social rights advocates urge Cleveland to target federal coronavirus funding on poverty, equity and racism

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Social rights advocates told Cleveland City Council members that American Rescue Plan Act money offers a chance to seriously tackle protracted poverty, addressing several intertwined issues plaguing Cleveland neighborhoods.

A successful strategy to tackle the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on people and the economy should involve programs that will perpetuate themselves and begin to tackle institutional racism in Cleveland, they said.

“It’s meant to be a revitalization, a revitalization and a building for the future,” Tania Menesse, CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, told board members. “It’s not just about surviving.”

The federal government recommends that cities use ARPA money to address poverty issues because this segment of the population may have been more affected by the pandemic than other parts of the community, said Menesse.

Federal guidelines specifically state: “There is a risk that the current pandemic-induced recession could further increase concentrated poverty and cause long-term damage to economic prospects in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. “

With that in mind, Menesse and those who joined her urged the city to target five areas made worse by the pandemic: health, housing, runway sanitation, data and technology infrastructure, and support for small businesses.

Menesse appeared before a city council working group as it held its first meeting to set the priorities council wants to address with funding. She was joined by Marsha Mockabee, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland; Mark McDermott, vice president and market leader in corporate community services; and Michael Obi, a leader in Urban League venture capital efforts.

The priorities they have defined are interconnected.

Improving housing stability or lead sanitation, for example, could also lead to health improvements, Menesse said. Likewise, rehabilitation programs that help preserve the affordable housing stock could also encourage developers to build new housing.

Tackling these issues would also be a start in shaping policies to tackle racism as a public health crisis, said Marsha Mockabee, chief executive officer of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland.

“We are talking about structural and institutional racism,” Mockabee said. “It didn’t happen overnight and it won’t change overnight.”

Ideas presented on Monday included rent assistance, improving access to stable housing, helping first-time buyers, grants and loans for the repair and rehabilitation of houses, resources and supporting small businesses, solving health problems to reduce child mortality and improving Internet access. for residents.

Cleveland is expected to receive $ 511 million in ARPA money over two years. The money must be encumbered by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026, or be returned to the federal government.

Monday’s task force meeting was the first of several expected before November 1, the board’s self-imposed deadline to complete its recommendations.

City council chairman Kevin Kelley said on Monday that the purpose of the meeting was to gather information for policy development. He wasn’t sure when the next meeting was, but he expected it to be next week.


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