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How Ohio is Reimagining Appalachia with ARPA Funds

By November 3, 2023November 5th, 2023No Comments

November 3, 2023

Last summer, Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation authorizing a $500 million investment in Appalachian Ohio through available Federal ARPA funding. Program guidelines were issued in October 2022, and almost $50 million of technical assistance and planning grants for transformative projects were released in early 2023. Requests for actual execution grants will be sought after October 31, 2023, for $450 million of funding through the Governor’s Office of Appalachia in the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD), with the aim of starting by 1Q 2024.

Eligible applicants for these Appalachian Ohio grants will include local governments and local development districts (LDDs), particularly when partnering with nonprofits or private entities. ODOD sees local governments as the primary drivers of these projects. “Regional” projects could be defined as county-wide or multi-county projects in Appalachia.

How it works

The transformative projects for those Appalachian Ohio priorities will include:

  1. Infrastructure
    Infrastructure, such as Main Street improvements, downtown redevelopment, large downtown structural development, connecting parks to communities, quality of life improvements, community art projects, and bike paths.
  2. Healthcare
    Healthcare, including school or community-based clinics, expanding mental health services through telemedicine, expanded services in behavioral health, and projects for recovery to work.
  3. Workforce Training & Development
    Workforce training and development, which could involve upskilling current workers, establishing a remote workforce in downtown centers, and expanding local library services.

During the application review process, the DeWine administration will prioritize projects that can connect these three priorities, are evidence-based, utilize public-private partnerships, demonstrate long-term economic viability and sustainability, and have a transformative impact in the Appalachian Ohio region. The Appalachian grant funding will not cover water, broadband, or sewer projects, as separate funding is allocated for those in the future.

There may be some flexibility with supply chain issues, but the funds must be spent by 2026. The application process is expected to be competitive, with a point system rather than a first-come, first-served basis for funding projects. While matching funds are not required, applicants should demonstrate evidence of other efforts to contribute, such as the involvement of other community groups. Applicants will also be encouraged to combine their Appalachian grant funding with other programs to leverage additional resources.

In June 2023, the DeWine administration and the Ohio General Assembly allocated $750 million in capital funding statewide to support this investment and strengthen Ohio’s communities, improving the quality of life for residents. This led to the creation of the All Ohio Future Fund with an initial investment of $750 million. The fund aims to drive job creation, attract investments, and foster innovation in Ohio. It positions the state as a “shovel-ready” destination for national and international businesses by providing critical resources, especially in site development for new projects. The funding purposes include activities such as site preparation for economic development, infrastructure, wetland mitigation, efforts to attract new business, workforce, and residents to Ohio, and initiatives to expand and advance business, workforce, community, and economic development within the state.

Outside state funds for this new Fund will be received through authorized transfers of monies from the oil and gas well funding and monies from Jobs Ohio under the liquor franchise agreement, approved by the Director of the Office of Budget & Management. The use of this new Fund will require Controlling Board approval to release funds. Community-based funding can also qualify for capital spending in various respects, including the purchase of real property interests, development or acquisition of buildings and structures, supportive professional and technical services, and machinery and equipment necessary for building operations. Strict guidelines are provided for such capital expenditures in the Ohio Code. If community-based projects are deemed ineligible, communities can still pursue them outside the Fund with the support of their public legislators.

Finally, Ohio is also considering its biennial capital budget funding cycle this Fall 2023, which could allocate approximately $800 million for capital budgeting projects. The cumulative impact of these funding streams in Ohio could reach almost $2 billion. The Ohio Legislature is still working out the details, but there is currently a significant difference between the House and Senate in terms of seeking coordination and cooperation for the administration of this funding. There are possibilities for two separate funding programs or integrating the funding streams into one comprehensive capital bill outcome in Ohio.

On the capital budget funds, House projects will need to be submitted by December 18, 2023. Capital projects for review in the Senate will need to be submitted by April 8, 2024. In recent guidance, the Senate says that it will not consider pilot projects, while the House  guidance is silent. Both the House and Senate are using the same submission worksheets for the  two capital budget initiatives. Differences will be reconciled further in the coming months. Stay tuned.