Home Written work Franklin County’s new website highlights coronavirus relief allocations.

Franklin County’s new website highlights coronavirus relief allocations.

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Franklin County Commissioners have already committed millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid for job training, hiring assistance and other initiatives to help residents, businesses and nonprofit groups to recover from the current pandemic.

And they envision tens of millions of dollars in additional assistance for affordable housing, broadband expansion, and other programs to ensure Franklin County is best positioned for a rebound once COVID-19 hits. a distant memory.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Commissioner John O’Grady, one of three elected members of the county commissioners’ council, which ultimately approves disbursements. “It’s not every day that you get this kind of money to make a difference and have an influence in your community. We want to make sure we’re doing it right.

Franklin County will receive nearly $ 256 million through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, federal coronavirus legislation enacted earlier this year by Democrats without the support of a U.S. Republican Senator or a member of the United States House of Representatives.

Details on local spending are available on a new county website (https://commissioners.franklincountyohio.gov/arp), which includes a list of allocations approved by commissioners.

Franklin County receives its total bailout allocation in two installments of approximately $ 128 million each. Of the original amount, the Commissioners have allocated over $ 76 million, and over $ 51 million remains.

Of that total, federal legislation predicts that the county will need about $ 50 million for expected revenue losses due to the ongoing pandemic to help cover general county expenses. These funds have not yet been officially allocated, just set aside in the county books for infrastructure and other costs.

Otherwise, the commissioners approved about $ 25 million in other federal spending to help COVID through 20 different resolutions passed during their regular weekly sessions. Among the notable expenses:

• $ 7 million to the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, to be used for a new 19,000 square foot addition to its Grove City warehouse, increasing the type and amounts of food distributed to residents in need.

• $ 5 million for nonprofit groups in the region, with grants of up to $ 50,000 and targeted, in part, on groups providing services in qualified census tracts, meeting the requirements of lowest household income.

• $ 3 million in tourism, travel and hospitality assistance to Huntington Park and the Columbus Clippers, the Cleveland Indians’ AAA minor league baseball affiliate. The Clippers are a county-owned nonprofit entity.

• $ 2.5 million for a new return to work program for women, including job training and other supports and services to help unemployed women, often due to the ongoing pandemic.

• Almost $ 2.4 million to the Columbus Urban League to support workforce programs, helping unemployed residents complete their education and land full-time jobs.

• Almost $ 1.3 million to the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority to improve safety and health at the Nationwide Arena and the Greater Columbus Convention Center to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other airborne illnesses.

The Greater Columbus Convention Center shares with Nationwide Arena nearly $ 1.3 million that Franklin County Commissioners are allocating to the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority for safety and health improvements to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other airborne illnesses.

All allocations require a detailed report to the US Department of the Treasury to ensure funds are spent appropriately. County administrator Kenneth Wilson said the county is also closely monitoring whether the funds have the desired outcome in the community.

“We want to know what your results are because this is a generational amount of federal dollars going into economies across the country,” Wilson said. “Ultimately, we want to be identified as one of the local governments that have made the most effective use of (federal COVID relief funds) by being innovative and also being responsible for benefiting the community in the short and long-term. . “

In July, the commissioners held a public hearing and accepted written and other comments from residents on how federal funds should be spent.

“What haven’t I heard?” O’Grady spoke about the ideas that have been provided to date. “Everyone has their ideas… everyone is in need…. We listened to everyone, worked with everyone.

Commissioner Kevin Boyce said there have been a lot of good ideas, but county officials are working to make sure federal funds are used as intended, to help bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are thinking about projects and ways to use these resources that are directly related to the pandemic, from job creation to initiatives that allow people to access training and other resources,” said he declared.

Commissioner Erica Crawley said she wanted to ensure that some federal funding helps address health equity issues, including making sure all residents have access to coronavirus testing and vaccinations and in safe places to quarantine if exposed to the virus, and “making sure we have transport available to get them to the doctor or get them for vaccinations.”

O’Grady’s priorities include spending on expanding affordable housing and broadband access across the county.

On housing, the commissioners have allocated federal coronavirus aid for rent assistance, and they plan to commit bailout law funding for the construction of new affordable housing.

“How much are we going to make? We’re still working on that number, but it will be important, ”said O’Grady.

He added separately that “people’s lives have been turned upside down, not only because of COVID and the impact of the disease, but it has also had a major financial impact on people’s lives. Affordable housing is a huge need in this community, and it has become an ever-growing need due to the financial impact that (COVID-19) has had on people’s lives.

Deputy County Administrator Erik Janas said the planned allocations would bolster the County Magnetic Fund, an affordable housing initiative unveiled in 2019 that helps leverage tax credits and make new construction projects more achievable. Federal funding could help finance the construction of hundreds of additional housing units, as well as support home repair programs and other relief efforts, he said.

“We know housing was already tight and housing was already expensive before the pandemic,” said Tyler Lowry, spokesperson for the commissioners. “It has only gotten worse since then. You can’t help people recover if they don’t have a place to live that is safe and secure and close to resources, close to jobs, and close to good schools.

O’Grady said the pandemic has also highlighted digital inequalities – residents in some parts of the county don’t have the same online access as others.

“The need has always been there,” he said. “There are parts of this community where there are kids who were sent home with Chromebooks who couldn’t access them because they didn’t have Wi-Fi at home. .… Where do they go to do their homework and have the opportunity to access the Internet? ”

Ultimately, all federal funding must be spent on efforts to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Boyce regularly asks fund recipients if they have plans to cover the costs of the efforts when pandemic relief runs out.

“These funds can help spark new initiatives and maybe spur some ideas, maybe even leverage those resources for other funding from the private sector or other levels of government,” Boyce said. “But, for now, we also need to think about our future and make sure that if we use these funds, we don’t expect us to be funded from the general fund” in the future.

Crawley agreed, saying it’s important in allocating federal COVID relief funds that the commissioners “don’t set up organizations to implement new programs that they can’t support later. We don’t. don’t want to put organizations in a situation where we’re helping fund something that county commissioners will be responsible for later. “

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