Of the $6.6 billion given to Ohio cities in federal pandemic relief funds, much of the money has been allotted for projects unrelated to COVID-19, or has not been allotted for spending at all.
The American Rescue Plan was signed into law in March, providing a total of $1.9 trillion in federal funds for pandemic relief. That money was spread around the country, and cities were supposed to report their expenditure plans to the federal government by October 31.
But with too much cash on their hands, the cities could adequately budget or spend the money in time. Instead of having them return excess funds, the federal government has simply moved its expenditure reporting deadline back to February of next year.
According to the Ohio Capital Journal, an accounting of some of the spending projects in Ohio’s cities are wholly unrelated to COVID-19.
Columbus, for example, has been slow on the draw in allocating any of its funds, which total $187 million. The only project to which it has committed is a “short-term summer youth engagement and anti-violence efforts” agreed upon by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and the city council.
The only thing the city of Akron has done with its pandemic relief funds, totaling $145 million, is hire a consulting firm to tell city officials how to spend the money. While the city has not proposed any spending plans, The Akron Beacon Journal has ideas of its own.
That publication suggests that the city should purchase surveillance cameras “deter crime and assist criminal investigations, purchase and install 50 surveillance cameras for Akron residents living in high crime areas.”
“Boost tourism and support downtown by funding new outdoor spaces (garden paths, skating areas, shaded seating, artwork, game terraces, etc.) at Lock 3,” is another suggestion made by the paper.
The city should also replace water mains, give homeowners grants to maintain “older housing stock,” and teach residents personal finance, according to the paper.
Cincinnati spent $107 million bailing itself out of spending deficits, but ensured that the rest of its federal funding will be spent on “visual arts organizations, restaurant grants, and investment in minority businesses.”
Toledo is spending more than $80 million for city infrastructure, which includes hiring police officers and firefighters. Another $40.5 million will be spent on “youth programming, sports and recreation.” That city received a total of $181 million federal taxpayer dollars.
Cleveland raked in $511 million, by far the most of any city in Ohio. It will spend $108 million making up for lost revenues from the pandemic, as intended.
“The remainder of the spending includes $75 million for community and economic development programs, $15 million for home/building demolition and $26 million for public safety,” the Ohio Capital Journal reports. “An additional $5 million will go toward the county food bank, and another $20 million for an expanded broadband Wi-Fi service in underserved poor communities in the city.”
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