CARES cash to start flowing to Ohio cities; state capital projects given OK

The Ohio House voted 87-8 on a financial package that includes distributing $350 million in federal CARES money to local governments and reappropriating more than $1 billion in state capital money so that public improvement projects at colleges, universities and elsewhere can continue.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act created a $150 billion fund for state and local governments to pay expenses tied to the COVID19 pandemic — Ohio’s allocation was $2 billion. The six largest Ohio counties, including Montgomery, and Columbus received money directly from the federal treasury while the remaining $1.2 billion was directed to the state to distribute to cities under 500,000 population.

The CARES Act funds can be used by local governments to cover COVID-19 related expenses. Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland told lawmakers that Springfield lost $10.7 million as a direct result of the pandemic.

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The bill also includes a plan to reappropriate $1.3 billion in state funds that had been previously promised for improvement projects.

Last week, the House and Senate were on track to take widely different approaches. Senators were considering a bill to reappropriate $1.3 billion in state capital funds while the House was debating raking back $600 million in money pledged to colleges, universities, local communities and some state agencies.

House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said House members wanted more information on capital projects that had been stalled for one reason or another.

Senate Bill 310 was amended to include the entire $1.3 billion in funding requests. It also grants authority to Gov. Mike DeWine to institute pay freezes for state employees if needed to deal with the impending budget crisis.

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In May, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered $775 million in spending cuts to balance the current fiscal year operating budget by June 30.

More cuts are expected to be needed to adjust the next fiscal year operating budget. The DeWine administration is in talks with state employee unions about making concessions and has announced pay cuts for non-union workers.

Senate Bill 310 now returns to the Senate for consideration of the House changes.

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