The State has announced the latest modifications to the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund (COAF) policies which provides up to $300,000 for Phase II environmental assessments and up to $750,000 for brownfield clean up. The State released its COAF policy update last month.
Unlike the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF), COAF grants are given out on a rolling basis as long as the State had money during the funding cycle. COAF has traditionally been used to obtain funding for Phase II assessments on brownfields. The use of the COAF for clean up has been less frequent due to limited funding available and the larger clean up grants available under CORF (up to $3 million).
The changes to the COAF program this time include:
The policy now explicitly states that abatement of asbestos are eligible clean up costs. See, 3.06
For the first time, the State is requiring a 10% match for use of COAF for clean up grants. This means for a max clean up grant, the applicant will need to supply $75,000 toward clean up. While its understandable the State wants to see the applicant have some "skin in the game," the no-match component of COAF was one element that made it more attractive than CORF.
Another issue is that the policy says the match must be spent by the "project approval date." The policies don’t define this term, but it would appear to be the date the Controlling Board approves the issuance of the grant. This timing seems odd in that applicants would need to spend the 10% before they knew for sure they were getting the grant.
Perhaps even a larger change than the 10% match, is the requirement that COAF clean ups for industrial or commercial use must generate or retain at least 10 jobs. See 6.09 Not every project has a job component at the get go.
The State previously recognized that some brownfields may not have redevelopment committed but are located in prime locations for future development. This is why for the CORF the State created the "Redevelopment Ready Track." Perhaps the limited amount of COAF clean up funds available is driving the State to use the money only for projects that have a job component.
No Longer a "First Come/First Serve" Program-
In the e-mail to interested parties providing notice of the changes to the COAF policies, the Ohio Department of Development also stated the following:
"During the month of July, cleanup applications will be reviewed and approved based on project merits rather than a first come/first serve basis."
While the indication is projects will be evaluated on their merits, there were no other changes to the policies which shed light as to how they will be evaluated on their merits. Unlike the CORF application process there is no defined scoring methodology for projects. This statement from ODOD can probably only be interpreted to mean the Director retains discretion to reject your clean up project as not worthy of COAF funding.