Butler County’s smaller governments to receive millions in COVID relief money soon

Fairfield will soon receive half of its nearly $4.5 million of pandemic relief funds, which is the most among Butler County’s smaller governments.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed at the end of June a bill that released $2.2 billion to be invested in Ohio, and $422 million of that will go to the state’s cities, villages, and townships with populations of less than 50,000. The second half of the money will be received in 2022.

Fairfield was the first among the communities to create a required separate fund to allow the U.S. Treasury to directly deposit funds. There’s no specific project planned, but Council finance chair Tim Abbott said his priorities would focus on public safety salaries and equipment, critical water and sewer projects, and paying off any qualifying debt.

Acting City Manager Don Bennett said his intent is to present a list of potential projects and items to City Council.

“I think we have an obligation to gather all the departments together, collect their input, come to a consensus and prioritize those and then we’ll present those to the council. Ultimately it will be their decision.”

According to the Social Security Act, the funds must be only used to cover costs incurred by Dec. 31, 2024, and related to the COVID-19 pandemic or its negative economic impacts.

Liberty Twp. will receive the second-most among the communities under 50,000 in Butler County. Liberty Twp. Trustee Christine Matacic previously told the Journal-News her focus for the township’s collective $4 million would be for fire protection equipment, water and sewer repairs and improvements, and infrastructure needs.

Township spokesperson Caroline McKinney said Thursday there are no specific projects at this time, and trustees will create its special fund at next week’s meeting. She also said it’s not yet certain when they’ll receive the first half of the federal funds.

Fairfield Twp. will receive a total of nearly $2.4 million. Trustees haven’t discussed how they’d like to spend that money, but Trustee Joe McAbee said he’s “got a couple of good ideas” concerning economic development.

Trustee Shannon Hartkemeyer said trustees “will be exploring potential uses for these funds to determine how they can best serve our community.”

This is the first time townships will receive some of the federal funds to help offset costs associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic. There are 1,308 townships in Ohio, and this funding impacts 1,305 of those local governments.

The Ohio Township Association released a statement last month saying the state has “finally and rightfully” confirmed direct ARP funding for the townships.

“Congress’ intention was to provide funding relief to local governments. With townships providing essential services to four million Ohioans, they desperately need these funds, just like cities and villages,” said Heidi M. Fought, OTA executive director.

West Chester Twp., Ohio’s largest township at nearly an estimated 64,000 residents, is the only Butler County township not a part of “smaller local government” allocation. Township spokeswoman Barb Wilson said the township is receiving around $6.6 million from the ARPA.

Pandemic relief for smaller local governments

Area townships, cities, and villages with populations under 50,000 are eligible to receive direct American Rescue Plan funds. Half the amount below will be distributed soon and the remainder will be available 12 months later. Listed are eligible communities with total funds to be allocated:

Fairfield: $4,457,996

Liberty Twp.: $4,076,492

Oxford: $2,420,797

Fairfield Twp.: $2,391,571

Monroe: $1,468,086

Trenton: $1,376,534

Madison Twp.: $938,779

Hanover Twp.: $896,774

Ross Twp.: $874,671

Morgan Twp.: $612,584

St. Clair Twp.: $488,664

Wayne Twp.: $432,098

Milford Twp.: $392,397

Reily Twp.: $291,836

Lemon Twp.: $257,164

New Miami: $249,412

Oxford Twp.: $230,138

Seven Mile: $82,125

Millville: $76,783

Jacksonburg: $6,809

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