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Harrison Co. to receive $2,916,915 in federal funding

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles that examines how much money local governments will receive as a result of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, as well as how the funds may be distributed and invested.

CADIZ — Harrison County is projected to receive $2,916,915 in American Rescue Plan funding over the next two years.

Harrison County Auditor Allison Anderson said that amount is just for use at the county level and does not include what the villages and townships may receive.

“The projections for others (villages and townships), to my understanding, are still being determined. The original bill that was signed into order by the President did not include townships as a form of local government, which the State of Ohio Township Association as well as the Auditor’s Association of Ohio have been fighting and submitting testimony for this to change. We would like to see villages and townships receive aid,” she said.

Anderson said there are four examples of uses for the funding included in the plan — respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 or its negative impacts; respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers of the county; for the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year of the county prior to the emergency; and to make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Last year, through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, the county received $1,224,275 that was distributed to villages and townships throughout the county. Anderson added that to her understanding, the rescue plan money will be distributed differently.

“Villages, and hopefully townships, will receive their money directly from the state, while the county will receive their money from the U.S. Treasury. There will be no pass-through entities. The money will go from state or U.S. level to the intended recipient,” she said.

The Harrison County Board of Commissioners will determine how the funds the county receives are spent. Although none of the money is earmarked, Commissioner Don Bethel said the board is hoping to spend some of the funds on expanding broadband access in the county.

“We want to make sure everyone in Harrison County can have access to the internet and cell service. It’s a health and safety issue at this point,” he said.

Commissioner Paul Coffland said it is a “top priority” to ensure that broadband services are enhanced and provided to everyone. Other than that, he said he would like to see funds go toward construction of the new Harrison County Jail. However, he is uncertain at this point if the project is eligible under the guidelines. He said they are waiting for further guidance from the Department of Treasury to gain knowledge on what the funds can and cannot be spent on.

Bethel said the commissioners will continue to discuss projects and ways to spend the stimulus funds.

“It will definitely be something that helps improve the county,” he added.

The county’s allocation was determined through census data and other formulas, Coffland said. It could be up to 60 days from the bill’s passage on March 11 before the county has access to the funds, he said.

The village of Cadiz is set to receive $619,795 through the rescue plan. Village Administrator Ted Andrzejewski said the money will help offset the loss of revenue the village has experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the money can help the village recover some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in income tax collections and other revenues over the last year. In 2020, the village’s income tax collections declined by about $350,000. Andrzejewski said he anticipates another $150,000 loss this year as well.

Andrzejewski suggested spending a portion of the funds on asphalt to pave streets throughout the village and hiring some additional employees to fill some positions that have been left vacant over the last year. He also suggested providing village employees with a 2 percent raise. However, no decisions on spending for the village have been made. Council and the financial committee will continue to discuss possible ways to spend the funding before making a final decision.

The county and the village have until the end of 2024 to spend the funds.

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