By Michael Indriolo, The Land

March 29, 2022

Two years after declaring racism a public health crisis in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, the government of Cuyahoga County has begun following through on its pledge to address racial disparities.

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So far, according to the Cuyahoga County Equity Commission’s second annual report, it has created new departments dedicated to equity, contracted with more local minority-led businesses, and prioritized development projects in historically disinvested neighborhoods.

County Executive Armond Budish and officials in his administration said the 39-page report (see below) reflects a top-to-bottom commitment to addressing socio-economic and racial disparities in Cuyahoga County.

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“We are trying to plant as many seeds as we can now that will blossom over the years,” said Budish, who has been in office since 2015 and is not running for reelection in 2022. “That’s one of the better ways we can make sure that the success we’re experiencing will continue into the future, regardless of the executive.”

The county’s work began internally, with a restructuring of equity-focused departments, but as officials refined their approach to racism, they have also begun looking externally, funneling resources and funding to communities most affected by systemic racism. The impact of these initiatives is as yet unclear.

Internally, the county’s newly-formed Department of Equity and Inclusion takes input from two also newly formed bodies, the Cuyahoga County Citizens’ Advisory Council on Equity (CACE), which is a citizen council, and the Cuyahoga County Equity Commission, composed of county department directors. This year, the department also is organizing training in racial equity for all high-level county employees and creating assessment tools to hold each department accountable to their goals.

On the external front, meanwhile, the county’s Department of Development doled out more than 200 loans to minority-owned businesses last year, and county council approved an additional $3 million in grants for four local nonprofits that lend support to small, women- and minority-owned businesses. In the same vein, county government overhauled policies and procedures for contracting with such businesses, all with the intent of working with them more often.

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