Half-billion in federal money to boost local cities, counties

Dayton City Hall. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Dayton City Hall. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Governments waiting to hear exact dollar amounts and rules for spending it.

Hundreds of millions of federal dollars are headed to Dayton-area county, city and village governments in the next 14 months as part of the American Rescue Plan that was passed by Congress.

But those communities are waiting to learn exactly how much each will get and what the rules are for using it.

Meanwhile township governments are pleading with the U.S. Treasury Department to finalize the rescue Plan rules in such a way that they don’t get left out. Early documents from a U.S. House committee estimated generous allocations for cities, but nothing for the unincorporated areas of townships, where more than a quarter of Ohio and Dayton-area residents live.

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“We did hear last week that Treasury is now aware of the issue and taking a look at it,” said Marisa Myers, director of governmental affairs for the Ohio Township Association. “We’re not entirely sure how adding townships into the mix might affect others’ allocations based on the estimates that have been produced.”

The U.S. Treasury Department did not respond to questions on the issue.

How much money?

The American Rescue Plan is a $1.9 trillion package that gives direct payments to residents, extends supplemental unemployment and rental assistance benefits, increases child tax credits and health care subsidies, and has money for vaccines, schools and governments, among a host of other provisions.

The plan allocates a total of $5.7 billion for Ohio’s state government, plus $5.4 billion for Ohio counties, cities and villages, including nearly a half-billion for the Dayton area. Specific local funding estimates were released earlier this month by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, based primarily on population and poverty levels, but they are preliminary.

Every city or village would get some money. That funding could range from:

  • $147.1 million for Dayton.
  • $7 million each for Huber Heights and Fairborn.
  • $2 million each for Tipp City and Franklin.
  • $50,000 for small villages like Casstown and Donnellsville.

Separate funding for county governments was estimated at $103.1 million for Montgomery County, followed by Warren ($45.5 million), Greene ($32.7 million), Miami ($20.7 million) and Preble ($7.9 million).

How could it be used?

Most local government agencies said it’s too early to say much about how the money will be used, because neither the dollar figures nor the rules are final.

“We haven’t received any notification of when and how the money will be received, nor have we received the final eligibility requirements and limitations on use of the money,” Troy City Director Patrick Titterington said.

A few jurisdictions expressed more confidence that funding close to the original estimates will come through. Trotwood Deputy City Manager Stephanie Kellum said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office advised the city of the same $4.78 million estimate that had come from the U.S. House.

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“We are devising preliminary plans on how to use the funds, and our team will work with city council to determine the highest priorities,” Kellum said. “According to information we have received, some allowed uses include investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.”

Montgomery County hopes to invest in “resources and infrastructure that benefits the public,” spokeswoman Deb Decker said, including possibly criminal justice enhancements, job training and technological infrastructure upgrades.

“Since we have until 2024 to spend the money, we are taking our time and developing a needs assessment,” Decker said. “We will be very deliberate in our spending.”

What the bill said

For the rescue plan’s local government funding, multiple jurisdictions are relying on guidance from the Ohio Municipal League, which said cities will receive half of their funds in the next couple of months and the other half 12 months later.

The municipal league says final guidance will come from the Treasury Department, but that the bill lists four general areas eligible for spending:

  • COVID-19 related assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits and industries.
  • Premium pay to essential workers or their employers.
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  • Replacing any revenue lost due to COVID so that government services can still be provided.
  • Making necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Beavercreek City Manager Pete Landrum said city staff is preparing recommendations based on those general guidelines, but is waiting for details from Treasury.

How much is it needed?

As usual, financial health varies from county to county. Greene County officials said they are in “a strong financial position,” so the federal money will allow them to help residents and businesses. Decker called the federal funds “unexpected but welcome,” saying Montgomery County had cut $10.5 million from its 2021 budget.

Warren County Administrator Tiffany Zindel said the county sees “no financial pressures at this time.” Warren County hasn’t met to discuss the money, but County Commissioner David Young said he wants the county to decline funding rather than contribute to an increase in the national debt.

At a city level, Clayton, which could see $2.6 million, said city revenue was down 8% last year. Miamisburg, tentatively slated for $3.95 million, said income tax revenue increased by 2.9 percent in 2020. Springboro City Manager Chris Pozzuto said his city is in strong financial shape, but the federal funds (an estimated $3.71 million) could accelerate upcoming infrastructure projects.

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Trotwood’s Kellum agreed, saying: “Some things that were planned for a five-10 year completion date may be executed in a two-four year period of time.”

Dayton city officials said general fund revenues were down $7.4 million the last nine months of 2020. But their bigger worry is whether state law will change, preventing Dayton from collecting income tax from former city-based workers who now work at home elsewhere. The proposed $147 million would be a giant lift.

“These stimulus funds will be extremely helpful to the city at a time when economic recovery is still very tenuous and investment is needed to address racial and gender disparities related to COVID-19 as well as economic inequities,” City Manager Shelley Dickstein said.

The money would come on the heels of millions in stimulus dollars from 2020, which many cities used largely to pay police and fire department salaries they would have paid anyway. That money was also used to buy protective equipment and technology, and offer small business and school grants.

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Now local governments are waiting to see exactly how much federal money they’ll get to work with in 2021 and 2022.

“I would just qualify everything as an estimate at this point,” said Myers, of the Ohio Township Association. “The way figures are being reported, I think a lot of communities and residents are taking that word as gold that this is going to be their number, but these are still estimates.”

Staff writers Ed Richter, India Duke, Cory Frolik, Bonnie Meibers, Eric Schwartzberg, Nancy Bowman and Nick Blizzard contributed to this report.

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