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Second wave of COVID-19 relief funds heading to Butler County

Published By Journal-News on June 29, 2022
Thomas Hall In The News

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill that will release the second wave of American Rescue Plan Act funds to smaller Butler County jurisdictions on Tuesday and communities should have the cash in early July.

The 20 Butler County jurisdictions expecting the second half of $22 million should receive the windfall soon, according to Pete LuPiba with the Office of Budget and Management.

“We have the payment file ready but are running into the normal accounting cut-off as we close this fiscal year,” LuPiba said. “We will process as soon as the system operationally opens back up on July 1, start of fiscal year and these respective entities should receive their payment in the first few weeks of next month.”
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act into law in March 2021, and it allocated $350 billion to help local governments deal with pains caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Direct distributions of the money went to states, counties and local jurisdictions with 50,000 or more residents. That meant Butler County, Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester Twp. received their funds, but the rest of the county was funded through $843.7 million the U.S. Treasury allocated to Ohio for distribution to “non-entitlement” entities or smaller jurisdictions below the 50,000 population threshold.

The legislature awarded half the money last summer but needed to pass another bill now for the rest. The bill was introduced last July for this allocation but it languished until state Republican representatives Thomas Hall of Madison Twp. and D.J. Swearingen from Huron, plus a host of co-sponsors jumpstarted it.

Hall at first told the Journal-News the smaller jurisdictions might not see the money until after the November election, but the legislature was able to get it passed before their summer break.

He told the Journal-News it was “imperative to get this important legislation done.” He attended the bill signing on Tuesday.

“As a former Madison Twp. Trustee, I have seen firsthand the issues that have come up due to the pandemic,” Hall said. “This critical funding in the legislation is going to help townships recover from the effects of the pandemic and I am very excited to deliver these dollars to our local communities to support them moving forward.”

The U.S. Treasury has relaxed some of the rules for the funding making it easier for local governments to make their spending decisions. Governments could always calculate their pandemic losses using a complicated formula and use the funds for general government purposes, but now they can replace revenue lost up to $10 million. Funds must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.

Liberty Twp. will receive a total of $4 million under both allocations and the trustees have decided to use it for roadwork. Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said now that they have also received federal approval for the estimated $40 million Millikin Road interchange project, some of the money could go there as well.

“It’s going to go toward roads, we didn’t specify exactly which roads just basically the road fund in general,” Farrell said. “We don’t count our chickens until they’re hatched so now that the funds are released we will take a look now and try to budget and find out when we’re going to spend what and where. The timing is good, we get federal approval and then we get ARPA funds.”

Fairfield Twp. is getting a total of $2.4 million from the coronavirus relief money and Township Administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the trustees recently agreed to use $200,000 to fix a drainage issue on Greenlawn Road, but no other decisions have been made.

“The ARPA funds provide the board with a means to improve infrastructure and address the negative economic impact caused by COVID,” Vonderhaar said. “Anything that improves the safety and welfare of the Fairfield Twp. community is a positive benefit to its residents.”

Oxford was allocated $2.4 million and is one of the few jurisdictions to have actually spent some of it. The city spent $483,097, including $6,444 in gift cards for staff to encourage them to get vaccinated; $200,000 to finish ADA curb installation and $113,000 to assist with infrastructure for the Miami University project the commissioners have been asked to support.

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said the city council hasn’t given formal approval yet but it intends to spend the remaining $1.9 million on housing and economic development initiatives.

The Butler County commissioners have a total of $74.4 million to spend. They decided they will share the bulk of their windfall with other governments and entities countywide and requests totaled about $200 million. The commissioners sifted through them all individually and did their due diligence, vetting the projects that ranged from economic development, workforce development, social services, infrastructure, healthcare, bike trail expansion and a new county morgue to name a few. All three declared a preference for 21 projects but at varying funding levels.

They asked for updated information from 11 of the requesters and the upshot was some requests were lower and others higher, but the total request from those entities is $1.68 million more or $60 million. The commissioners do not all agree on funding levels but are expected to start making decisions on the requests soon. County Administrator Judi Boyko told the Journal-News she expects they will spend roughly $34 million this year, the rest next year

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