COLUMBUS — Local governments met with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) Wednesday morning to appeal a flaw in national legislation that could possibly exclude Ohio townships from millions in coronavirus relief funding.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed by President Joe Biden, offered $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief funding nationwide. Of this, the State of Ohio is slated to receive $11.2 billion.
Preliminary review of the American Rescue Plan Act in February indicated that Ohio townships were included. Further revisions, however, did not specifically include Ohio townships among localities that would receive monies. The lack of clear wording makes local government leaders “nervous,” said John Morris, president of the Montgomery County Township Association.
Turner, along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), joined in a bipartisan effort to rectify the issue. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers urged the secretary to use the powers granted her in the bill to ensure townships are included.
“We see this as a terrible injustice,” said Sugarcreek Township administrator Barry Tiffany. “Hopefully the secretary will take our recommendation and straighten this out very quickly.”
Turner said the oversight is primarily a consequence of sloppy bill drafting. Turner voted against the American Rescue Plan Act, along with every other Republican in Congress, calling it an “irresponsible” piece of legislation.
“However, once the government decides to spend money, we need to ensure we get our fair share,” Turner said.
Ohio townships are competing for a pot of $360 billion allocated for local governments nationwide, Turner said. Of that, Ohio’s local governments, including cities and counties, are set to receive $5.3 billion in funds.
“The language change that may have made townships ineligible for direct ARP funding will affect every single one of Ohio’s 1,308 townships and at least four million Ohioans,” said Heidi Fought, executive director of the Ohio Township Association.
Said Harrison Township Administrator Kris McClintick, “The theme throughout this is an equity issue.”
The CARES Act and subsequent coronavirus relief aid had previously allocated $177 million to Ohio townships across the state. As such, there is ample precedent for townships to be included in relief legislation.
“Ohio’s townships are facing the same negative economic impacts as cities and counties,” Morris said. “In difference however, townships are not afforded the same tools of taxation to bridge their gaps in revenue, so the result can only be a reduction in services.”
According to Beavercreek Township Trustee Debborah Wallace, Beavercreek Township provides fire department and emergency medical services to the entire City of Beavercreek. Previous CARES Act money the township received was spent almost entirely on personal protective equipment.
“Almost all the money from previous bills went to fire and EMS,” Wallace said.
Turner said that he expects that the secretary will take action to rectify the issue, though Yellen has not yet responded to the Ohio Township Association as of yet.