WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s been months since President Biden signed that trillion dollar American Rescue Plan into law, but guidelines for using the money in Ohio are still being written in Columbus. Locally, the debate continues over just how it can help attract new businesses and rebuild the population.
“Our numbers are dropping drastically, so we’ve gotta be creative and figure out, well, how can we get people back to the Mahoning Valley?” said Cheryl Saffold of Warren City Council.
The Regional Chamber hosted a forum Tuesday afternoon on spending the nearly quarter-of-a-billion dollars that’s been earmarked for governments throughout Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Some here believe the focus should be on the basics.
“When we come into the city — high weeds, debris, lights out, it’s something that’s basic, that should be done easily on a continuous basis without people having to complain,” said John Klimko of Springfield Township.
But the rules for using the rescue place funds are very restrictive and perhaps even a little daunting.
A couple hundred Ohio communities have yet to apply for their funds and that totals about $20 million.
“The secret sauce in making this program work and the funding work, you have to relate it back to a COVID-impacted situation,” said Terry Slaybaugh of Jobs Ohio.
Some in the audience were asking how those unused funds will ultimately be spent.
“I don’t know how the state, you know, ultimately the legislature, the governor will address that,” Slaybaugh said.
While communities still have until late 2024 to apply for their money, there was one point the audience all seemed to agree on: this kind of help from Washington may not be available for another generation, so it needs to be spent wisely.