West Chester getting $6.6 million as only Butler County township receiving new stimulus funds

The U.S. Treasury released more guidance for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on Monday but Butler County townships, with the exception of a $6.6 million allocation for West Chester, are still unfunded.

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law March 11, and it allocated $350 billion to help local governments with pains caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Early estimates showed the county would receive the largest allocation at nearly $75 million. Other payments to local governments ranged from $36.2 million for Hamilton to $10,000 for tiny Jacksonburg, for a total of $147 million. The townships were to receive nothing directly from the federal government.

Treasury put out new estimates that allocate money to states, counties, metropolitan cities — populations over 500,000 — and large townships. West Chester is one of three townships in Ohio slated to receive direct federal funding.

The treasury’s plan also allocates $843.7 million to the state for distribution to “non-entitlement” entities or smaller jurisdictions below the 500,000 population threshold. Pete LuPiba, spokesman for the state Office of Budget and Management, said Treasury promised to issue those allocations next week.

Townships could fall into the non-entitlement category but Ohio Township Association officials are still waiting for further guidance. They along with local state and congressional leaders have been campaigning to get funding for all townships.

ExploreTownships left out of $147 million federal COVID-19 relief windfall for Butler County

“It is crucial that all of Ohio’s 1,308 townships - whose communities total over four million Ohioans - receive these pandemic-relief funds, just like Ohio’s other forms of local government,” OTA Executive Director Heidi M. Fought said. “Townships have been hit hard economically by COVID-19. If they are not determined eligible for direct funds or provided funds via a transfer from an eligible entity, over one thousand units of local government will be put at a disadvantage when trying to recover from the pandemic’s effects,”

The county’s $74.4 million allocation is about $100,000 more than the estimate. The commissioners have not committed to any specific projects but have said they would be willing to share if the townships still are excluded from funding.

Hamilton and Middletown were the only other entities allotted direct federal payments. Under the Treasury allocation Hamilton stands to lose around $3 million from the early estimates. The city is now slated to receive $33.6 million.

“It is still a tremendous opportunity for our community to thoughtfully and deliberately create a plan to continue Hamilton’s positive trajectory,” City Manager Joshua Smith told the Journal-News. “Now that we better understand how the money can be utilized, council will likely schedule public work sessions to determine how to maximize this unique program to our residents and businesses benefit.”

The Treasury guidance outlines what the funds can be used to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on households and businesses, non-profits and other industries; grant premium pay for essential workers, government or to employers dealing with the pandemic; revenue loss due to the pandemic and water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Middletown’s distribution is $18.9 million, up from the estimated $18.2 million. City Manager Jim Palenick said the new figure matches his calculations and the city is working on a plan to best utilize the “one-time” windfall.

“We know we will use one-time monies for one time projects. They will have to represent transformative opportunities,” Palenick said. “They should leverage large amounts of other funds or investment. And they need to accomplish something that otherwise would not have been done in the absence of this funding.”

County jurisdictions received a total of $26.8 million in CARES coronavirus relief funding last year. The restrictive nature of that funding pot made it hard for governments to spend the money, until the Treasury allowed them to use some of it for salaries of employees who were substantially dedicated to dealing with the pandemic.

West Chester received nearly $4 million in CARES funding and allocated $3.8 million for police and fire salaries, allowing the township to extend the life of their levies. Since West Chester Finance Director Ken Keim just learned of the new money on Monday he hasn’t had time to develop a plan to present to the trustees.

At first glance he said he would probably recommend replenishing the $640,000 in lost hotel tax revenue.

He said with the CARES funding the state provided several webinars for finance directors on good uses for the money, he expects that resource will again be available.

“As I hear of ideas in these webinars I’ll bring them back to the directors and stimulate conversations and maybe some things will pop out from that,” he said. “We’ll work together to come up with these ideas.”

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