Ohio’s more than 1,300 townships are still waiting to see if the state will determine that they are eligible for millions in federal American Rescue Plan dollars.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has defined Ohio’s townships as “minor civil divisions” and Ohio as a weak minor civil division state. As such, the state of Ohio must determine whether they can receive the American Rescue Plan money, according to the feds.
“We still don’t have a definitive answer,” said Heidi Fought, executive director for the Ohio Township Association.
The Ohio Office of Budget and Management could be the one making the decision. At stake is how $844 million will be distributed.
Why some Ohio townships have been approved for relief funds while others wait
Fought said cities with populations of less than 50,000, plus villages, are eligible for that money.
Three of Ohio’s townships are receiving money because their populations are more than 50,000, Fought said. They are: West Chester in Butler County, and Green and Colerain in Hamilton County, all in southwest Ohio.
Pete LuPiba, a spokesman for the Office of Budget and Management, said the office is reviewing federal guidance to determine how to proceed. Fought said that office distributed federal CARES Act money to counties in 2020.
Ohio has 1,308 townships, including Blendon, Brown, Clinton, Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Mifflin, Norwich, Perry, Plain, Pleasant, Prairie, Sharon Truro and Washington townships in Franklin County.
“Our hope that since all were eligible for CARES Act money, they’ll be eligible for rescue plan dollars,” Fought said.
Prairie Township Administrator Rob Peters said the township used CARES Act money to pay for cleaning products and barriers to protect staff members dealing with the public. He also said they used the money for payroll for safety services.
He expects to use American Rescue Plan money in similar ways — if all the state’s townships are determined eligible.
“If all government entities are helped, I’d certainly like to see townships have some opportunities,” Peters said.
Franklin County determining how to spend federal money
In the meantime, Franklin County officials are still figuring out how to distribute the $255 million in American Rescue Plan money the county expects to receive.
County commissioners are working on a plan for how to use the funds to help the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyler Lowry, a spokesman for the commissioners, said in an email.
Lowry said the federal money is coming in installments, so the plan now will focus on how to use the first $127.9 million.
In general, he said, the county administration will recommend a plan to the commissioners that funds many of the things that are already priorities: affordable housing, public infrastructure, poverty mitigation, human services, youth/family assistance, workforce development, small business assistance with a focus on racial equity and inclusion, plus food insecurity, public health, and tackling problems such as the “benefits cliff,” which is when people make just enough money to lose public benefits such as food stamps but still struggle because their pay remains low.
The county also plans to do some surveying of the community to see how it would like the money spent, he said.
In Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, county administrators are deciding how to spend $158 million in American Rescue Plan money. They are proposing using $5 million of that to move the Cincinnati Police Department’s shooting range.