Cuyahoga County Community Benefit Initiative Would Open Up Good Jobs to Local Low-Income & Minority Residents

Initiative Would Also Save Energy & Money, Improve Public Health

With support from Emerald Cities Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Council is considering adoption of a community benefits policy requiring county-funded projects of $500,000 or more to provide good jobs for local residents. By reducing energy use through energy efficiency, the policy would also reduce emissions, which in turn would improve the environment and public health while saving taxpayer dollars.

Emerald Cities Collaborative national board member Kathleen Mulligan Hansel of the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Working Families and EC Cleveland Local Council member Amanda Woodrum of Policy Matters Ohio helped develop the Cuyahoga County Community Benefit & Opportunity Initiative – the formal name for the policy – as members of a diverse working group of community, labor and environmental organization representatives 

Career Pathways
The community benefit agreement, or CBA, would create good, career-path jobs for residents, focusing on low-income people, people of color,women, veterans and other historically under-represented groups. The jobs would be in county public works, service contracts and subsidized development projects.

 The initiative is aimed at making Cuyahoga County a national leader in maximizing the local impact of economic and community development dollars through the contracting and procurement process.

Taking The High Road
CBAs are meant to counter “low-road” economic development practices that occur when local governments enter into public contracts with employers that pay low wages and disregard negative impacts on communities, residents and the environment.

By contrast, the Cuyahoga County CBA would:

  • Create local jobs and ensure that workers in those jobs receive living wages;
  • Ensure that the county workforce reflects the community’s diversity;
  • Create opportunities for disadvantaged workers by targeting residents from the county’s poorest neighborhoods;
  • Build career pathways out of poverty through on-the-job training opportunities and support for pre-apprenticeship programs; and
  • Ensure high-quality, energy efficient building with cost-effective, sustainable technology that will reduce taxpayer expenses and ensure that the county considers health impacts from public projects.

“The Cuyahoga County Community Benefit & Opportunity Initiative would mean more local jobs with higher wages, alleviation of poverty, strengthening of neighborhoods, a more diverse and productive workforce and long-term economic and environmental sustainability,” said EC Cleveland Director Shanelle Smith.

Health Impact Assessments
“Besides earmarking ‘high-road’ jobs for residents of low-income communities of color and safeguarding the environment, the proposed Cuyahoga County CBA puts the health benefits of lower energy use front and center by requiring health impact assessments, or HIAs, in the county public works process,” Smith added.

According to Policy Matters Ohio’s recommendations for the CBA ordinance, HIAs would be conducted prior to approval of county-owned construction projects to determine the “potential effects of the proposed project on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population.” HIAs should also “take into account transportation access and pedestrian environment, air quality, as well as food access and affordable housing when appropriate” and require that any negative impact from the project “be mitigated with a net positive setoff.”


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