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County CDBG cash to be distributed through programs

WARREN — The Trumbull County Planning Commission is doing what it can to prepare for an unknown amount of money it expects to receive to help the community with the extra costs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The amount of money the planning commission will receive in supplemental Community Development Block Grants and the local government funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to use to support county residents and institutions is unknown, and the guidelines on how the money can be used are not finalized. The planning commission is working with community partners and the available guidelines to plan potential programs, along with applying for other funds to mitigate the extra costs and losses caused by the virus shutdowns, said Julie Green, executive director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission.

Green hosted a virtual public meeting this week to share what information there is and discuss what types of programs may be available. It is estimated the county could receive approximately $2.7 million in local government funds to be disbursed and between $400,000 and $500,000 in supplemental CDBG funds, but the exact amounts are not yet known.

Nicholas Coggins, assistant director of the planning commission, said he hopes to use a portion of the local government funds to create a forgivable loan program.

“We have an application put together, asking to use the supplemental local government funds to aid small local businesses affected by COVID-19 — whether from a loss of revenue, a mandated shutdown or another COVID-19 related issue. We want to basically replicate the Small Business Association’s loan program, but on a local level,” Coggins said. “We would like $25,000 or more for the program, but commissioners will have to set what the money is spent on.”

The money is likely to go fast, Coggins said, because commissioners also are likely to contend with budget shortfalls because of decreased revenue collection caused by virus mitigation efforts.

Once more information is released, the planning commission will develop a plan, the county commissioners will weigh in and then there will be a second public hearing for the CDBG funds, Green said.

The CDBG money, which exists to help low-to-moderate-income people and areas, could be used on virus-related issues to help clients of the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board and the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities, and Trumbull County Combined Health District activities, Green said.

The health district may need funds to help deliver a vaccine once one is developed, acquire personal protective gear, testing and provide alternative living arrangements if someone can’t quarantine or self isolate at home.

The money also could provide the funds to ensure homeless people have somewhere safe to stay.

The planning commission also is running an emergency housing assistance program through the Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) grant. Because of COVID-19, some of the funds will be used to help low-to-moderate-income households to stay in their homes and make utility payments. To qualify, applicants must make below 80 percent of the area median income — up to $52,100 for a family of four — and the applicants’ employment must have been affected by the virus through reduced hours or permanent or temporary layoffs. The program can help with mortgage, rent and utility costs for up to three months. Potential applicants can contact Coggins at PCCoggin@co.trumbull.oh.us or 330-675-2480.

The planning commission last week received $20,000 from the Raymond John Wean Foundation and $25,000 from the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley to support PPE and testing efforts for seniors, homeless people, first responders and health care workers.

“I saw the need and applied for the money to have the funds available to ensure we are covered through this year, and maybe next year, because we don’t know how long this will last,” Green said.

The commission also has been assisting local agencies with mapping and surveying to track cases.

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