U.S. Treasury sends $590M in COVID-19 relief to area governments

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Area counties and cities are set to receive more than $590 million in new COVID-19 relief to help cover revenue losses due to the pandemic, boost public infrastructure and assist households, workers and businesses hurt by the health crisis.

The Treasury Department on Monday said Ohio will receive nearly $5.4 billion in aid as part of Democratic President Joe Biden’s larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, with another nearly $6.6 billion going directly to local governments.

All 88 Ohio counties and 37 cities and townships will receive the payments from a $350 billion portion of the plan targeted to help state and local governments.

The city of Dayton will receive nearly $140 million, the largest amount of any local jurisdiction, and Montgomery County has been allocated nearly $103.3 million.

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Local governments can expect to receive funds in two batches, half coming this month and the rest a year from now. The funding can be used through Dec. 21, 2024, according to the Treasury Department.

The lack of an immediate deadline will allow Montgomery County to examine infrastructure needs and scrutinize spending for public health and county services, said Montgomery County Administrator Michel Colbert.

“The American Rescue Plan affords us time to invest this relief funding,” he said. “We are focused on using these funds for long-term enhancements to improve the lives of our residents.”

The city of Springfield will receive $44.2 million and Clark County $26 million.

Butler County will get $74.4 million, Warren County $45.6 million, Greene County $32.8 million, and $20.8 million will go to Miami County.

The cities of Fairborn, Hamilton, Kettering and Middletown will also each get millions in relief funding. Smaller cities in the region will also receive funding and the Treasury Department will be announcing guidance on those distributions in coming days.

Ohio Townships Association Executive Director Heidi Fought said only three of Ohio’s 1,308 townships received the recovery money, putting them at a disadvantage. They will urge government entities that did receive the funding to transfer some to cover services and programs for their roughly 4 million residents, she said.

In addition to replacing lost public sector revenue and helping workers, small businesses and affected industries, the governments can also use the funds to invest in water, sewer and broadband systems, according to guidance the Treasury Department released along with the figures. Essential workers also can qualify for premium pay under the program.

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What officials can’t do with the money is use it to cut taxes, pay down debt or bolster rainy day funds.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Republican, called Treasury’s directives on how the money should be used akin to “fantasy fiction.”

Because Ohio’s unemployment rate is not significantly higher than its pre-pandemic level, the state is eligible to receive just half of its $5.4 billion allotment immediately, with the rest being provided one year later. Those states where unemployment rose significantly will get their full allotment right away.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has recommended to the state Legislature that Ohio use a portion of its COVID relief dollars to pay off the unemployment compensation insurance loan the state owes to the federal government.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has said paying the loan balance and shoring up the state’s unemployment trust fund would prevent an estimated tax increase on employers next year of more than $100 million and save businesses nearly $660 million over three years.

Under Treasury guidelines, states can use the federal money to replenish their unemployment insurance trust funds up to pre-pandemic levels.

News of the federal allotment came as the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced plans to resume weekly work-search requirements for those receiving unemployment benefits starting the week of May 23.

The federal government authorized states to waive the requirement from the middle of last March, at the height of the pandemic, through Dec. 1. On Dec. 6, Ohio resumed the requirement for new claims, but continued to waive it for existing ones.

DeWine said resuming the requirement “only makes sense” now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available, allowing people to safely return to work.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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