ARPA spending in Stark, Canton varies from Ohio Poverty Law Center tracker

The Ohio Poverty Law Center has created a website to track American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending by state departments and major metropolitan areas.

However, the dollar amounts at differ from figures provided by Canton and Stark County.

Stark County has appropriated only $3.2 million of its nearly $72 million American Rescue Plan dollars so far, according to the Ohio Poverty Law Center. This is about $1 million less than the county has already spent or committed to projects, according to data from Stark's Director of Management and Budget Chris Nichols.

The Stark County commissioners have committed to reimbursing the sanitary engineer $2.3 for a recently completed sewer system extension in Canton Township and a roughly $511,000 waterline expansion project in Lake Township, Nichols said in an email. He said the Canton Township project cost nearly $2.6, but that it was also funded through a $249,000 Community Development Block Grant.

About $1.4 million has been committed to a waterline expansion on Grand Valley Drive NW and Wright Road NW in Lake Township. Nichols said the project is in development.

The commissioners have said they would be willing to allocate up to $35 million in ARPA funds for sanitary sewer and public water projects. The county is in the process of extending its sewer system to areas with failing septic tanks. More than 500 houses with failing tanks are expected to join the county sewer system by the end of 2026.

The county spent $15,600 to pay accounting firm Rea & Associates to help with the federal reporting requirements pertaining to APRA, Nichols said. Stark County has worked with Rea & Associates for many years, he said, as the firm prepares Stark’s annual comprehensive financial report.

Approximately $3,700 went to the Stark County Emergency Management Agency as reimbursement for providing meals to Ohio National Guard members who helped at pop-up COVID testing sites in Stark County during the pandemic.

How much has Canton spent in ARPA funding?

The tracker shows Canton with $5.78 million of its total $63.6 million appropriated by Aug. 3. Finance Director Mark Crouse said the city already spent $6.95 million by June 30.

"I was also looking at the figures on the tracker and I noticed that it said that Summit County had spent their entire allotment, which is not true," he said by email. "Summit may be planning to spend it in those categories but they have not spent all of the funds yet."

Messages left for Summit County were not returned.

The city's Recovery Plan Performance Report, which details the ARPA expenses through June, states that the funds primarily will be for infrastructure projects and programs that alleviate the negative economic effects of the pandemic. Such work was to start in 2021 and "ramp up" this year.

"A key component of the city of Canton’s plan will be to reach all areas of the city. This includes partnering with multiple nonprofit organizations in our most vulnerable and distressed areas," it states. "The intent will be to offer a variety of programs that impact education, employment, and the ability to have our residents receive the support that they need."

According to the report, the $6.95 million in expenses were categorized as:

  • $73,749 for public health services.

  • $20,000 for food program assistance.

  • $50,000 for rent, mortgage and utility assistance.

  • $3.5 million for affordable housing ― The greatest allocation thus far approved by City Council was awarded to Habitat for Humanity of East Central Ohio for affordable housing in southeast Canton and a community space at the Compton Learning Center.

  • $392,117 for neighborhood features to promote health and safety.

  • $115,000 to address inequality in high-poverty school districts.

  • $1.15 million in loans or grants to small businesses.

  • $100,000 for affected nonprofit organizations.

  • $25,635 to aid the tourism, travel or hospitality industries.

  • $1.52 million in other economic impact assistance.

Since late June, City Council has continued to approve ARPA projects recommended by the administration. They include $2.3 million for upgrades to the field complex at Willig Park and $1.35 million in community development projects.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded Canton $2.57 million in HOME-ARPA funds, which are strictly for people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or part of another vulnerable population. City Council has approved $32,550 for consultants from Mullin Lonergan Associates and $12,168 for the Stark Housing Network ― both of which are working together on a plan that must be approved by HUD to spend the money.

How does the Ohio Poverty Law Center's ARPA tracker work?

The Ohio Poverty Law Center's tracker contains information on the spending of COVID relief funds in several communities in the state, including the cities of Akron, Youngstown, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Dayton.

On the county level, it also has data on Summit, Mahoning, Hamilton, Cuyahoga, Franklin, Montgomery and Lucas.

The Ohio Poverty Law Center is a Columbus-based organization that aims "to reduce poverty and increase justice by protecting and expanding the legal rights of Ohioans living, working, and raising their families in poverty." It aims to educate lawmakers on the challenges faced by people in poverty and started as part of the Ohio State Legal Services Association, which provides legal services to low-income Ohioans.

It posted the tracker along with a report on CARES Act and ARPA spending in Ohio in August.

Carson Tucker, a legislative specialist at the Ohio Poverty Law Center, said the agency has tracked spending in Ohio through the state and local fiscal recovery funds, the homeowner assistance fund, childcare and CARES Act. It complies data from many sources, including the state's Controlling Board, recovery plans, city council and county commissioners meeting minutes, news outlets, government websites and dashboards, and press releases.

“We don’t have a specific every two weeks or every 30 days (we update it),” Tucker said. “Partially because of how some of the funding is spent or allocated. (It’s) sort of not in a specific timed manner or anything like that.”

The report calls for the state's remaining COVID-relief funds to be spent on issues related to food, housing and health. This includes increasing food supplies at food banks, investing in lead poisoning prevention programs and increasing the supply of affordable housing across the state.

Carson said the Ohio Poverty Law Center typically announces tracker updates on its social media accounts and encouraged anyone interested in following along to check these regularly.

Reach Kelly at 330-580-8323 or kelly.byer@cantonrep.comOn Twitter: @kbyerREP

Reach Paige at 330-580-8577 or, or on Twitter at @paigembenn.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: COVID stimulus spending by Canton and Stark differs from OPLC tracker