WARREN — With the deposit last week of the first half of promised federal funds through the American Rescue Plan, three agencies Tuesday pitched their requests for some of the money to Trumbull County commissioners.
The Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, the Western Reserve Port Authority and Valley Economic Development Partners pitched ideas to the three county commissioners in a meeting following their weekly workshop. The county is expected to receive about $38 million over two years. The chamber and VEDP representatives said they’ll be making a similar request of Mahoning County commissioners for funding for their project ideas.
Commissioner Frank Fuda said the county still needs finalized guidelines on how the money can be spent before any decisions are made. The money must be spent “wisely,” he said.
Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said numerous entities have sent in requests for funding, but commissioners will take their time and prioritize projects before making any decisions.
Commissioner Niki Frenchko said she wants the county to create a ranking or scoring system for fund requests to determine which projects are most deserving. She said she wants those making requests to show projected outcomes so commissioners can weigh the potential impacts of suggested projects.
VEDP’s funding request is for $1 million to $2 million to create a new revolving loan fund for Trumbull County businesses, Teresa Miller, executive director, said. Valley Partners would add $50,000 into the loan fund. The loans would range between $50,000 and $75,000 with a maximum of $150,000, and offer businesses with less than $1 million in revenues fixed-asset and working-capital loans. The agency would underwrite and analyze the loans, and a committee would review the loans.
Interest rates would be determined by market rates, collateral, capacity and risk, with a current standard rate of 4 percent.
The recipients would have to show the funds are being used to mitigate financial hardships, such as declines in revenue, due to the pandemic.
“The fund will revolve in perpetuity with the potential to create thousands of jobs over several years as funds are paid back and re-lent,” the pitch states. The initial round could help 24 to 27 businesses.
VEDP handled a program with CARES Act funding for the county, disbursing nearly $1 million in grants to more than 100 small businesses, funding 202 forgivable loans at $5.747 million and funding 24 loans from other Small Business Administration and revolving loan fund programs at $5.660 million, according to Miller.
Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer and senior vice president of economic development for the chamber, asked commissioners to supply the chamber with $800,000 for a program titled EMERGE to run through 2024.
The EMERGE program would provide “one-on-one assistance to Trumbull County companies that continue to struggle as a result of COVID-19. The chamber staff responds to and proactively reaches out to small businesses located throughout the county to ensure they are aware of the many COVID-related and other resources available to support their needs,” Boyarko’s presentation states.
The program was created in 2020 to provide “expertise in the areas of finance, accounting, insurance, health care, law, businesses, government affairs and marketing.” It partners with the port authority and VEDP, would offer gift card and merchandise giveaways to small businesses and promote business-to-business connections, the presentation states.
The initial breakdown would allocate $100,000 in administrative costs, $50,000 in marketing and communications, $250,000 on education and outreach, $50,000 in research and analysis and $350,000 in “functional costs.”
Frenchko questioned the proposed cost breakdown, stating it seems to provide too much in administrative funding. Boyarko said the amounts can be tweaked.
Sarah Lown, public finance manager for the port authority, asked commissioners for $673,000 to complete the extension of sanitary sewer lines on the airport campus. The project would include the installation of sewer trunk lines and laterals, which would eliminate stormwater connections and reduce the amount of storm water in the system. Stormwater, which does not need to be treated, is sent to the treatment plant because it flows into sanitary sewer lines and it stresses the treatment plant capacity leading to an unnecessarily high bill, Lown and Gary Newbrough, interim sanitary engineer, said.
“We are making a different pitch in Mahoning County. They have different priorities, so we will make a request for the Campus of Care and to countywide spot revitalization.”
Frenchko questioned why the port authority needs extra funding when it collects bed taxes to operate. The county funds about 42 percent of the port’s budget by allocating it a portion of bed taxes, Lown said.
Lown said investments in the port help create jobs and economic development. Frenchko said she wants to see measurable outcomes from the port.