PORTSMOUTH— With CARES Act spending deadlines fast approaching, Portsmouth City Council first added two pieces of legislation to its agenda and later passing one by waiving the three-reading rule.
Typically not a fan of adding pieces late to the agenda, Mayor Kevin Johnson voted in favor of both after asking City Manager Sam Sutherland the reasoning behind moving forward at this hastened rate.
“We need to make a move to appropriate so we can spend it in time,” said Sutherland, who had listed the CARES Act funds on the City Manager’s agenda before the Monday, Oct. 26, session.
Requested to be passed as an emergency, the measure would be an extension of money set aside for schools, small businesses and the homeless shelter originally announced during the Managers’ session on Sept. 14. This legislation surpassed the three-reading rule and eventually passed Council in a 5-0 vote.
“It seems like it has become the rule instead of the exception that we are constantly adding something to the last minute,” said Johnson, who dislikes motions like these as he feels it does not allow for public comment. “But how can I dispute with what we added-on tonight? It was a needed add-on.”
The second added piece would cover at least partially the payroll expenses of health workers and first responders in addition to the City Manager and Community Development Director Tracy Shearer. Totaling $726,408, Sutherland said 100% of the city’s police, fire, and health department workers could be covered through this fund and at least 50% of Shearer’s salary.
“Myself and Tracy have been working very dilligently on this coronavirus relief money and dealing with the public on small business grants,” said Sutherland, adding that the deadline for encumberances is Nov. 20 and the balance of unspent funds due to the state treasury office by Dec. 28.
Council’s decision to approve these pieces comes the same day as the Ohio Controlling Board approved more than $419 million in additional CARES Act funds, announced Friday by Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted in partnership with the Ohio General Assembly.
“The funding approved today is essential for Ohio’s small businesses and families struggling to pay the rent due to COVID-19-related hardships,” Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, said. “It also sends important relief to critical care hospitals.”
The fifth wave of relief funds distributed in the state, the aid was split into such categories as low-income Ohio homeowners and renters, small businesses, charitable groups, higher education and hospitals.
Here is how that money is divided:
- $50 million toward the Home Relief Grant program to assist those facing evictions, foreclosures, and water and sewer service shut-offs during the current health pandemic.
- $125 million through the Small Business Relief Grant program for businesses with under 25 employees to use for pandemic-related expenses.
- $38.7 million through the Small Business Relief Grant and the Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund in grant dollars will be directed to Ohio’s approximately 15,000 bars and restaurants.
- $25 million in grant dollars for nonprofits to assist charitable groups who are working every day to help those in need.
- $100 million for Ohio’s colleges and universities to use for increased COVID-19 testing and prevention programs.
- $62 million targeted to the state’s smaller hospitals that are providing critical care to Ohioans.
- $20 million for performing arts groups to use for hardships related to COVID-19.
“We know that Ohioans are hurting, and the needs are great. We must do what we can to help them through this crisis,” said DeWine in a press release. “Providing financial support to small businesses, the arts, and nonprofits will help them keep the doors open and Ohioans employed. For Ohioans in need, this assistance will help them stay in their homes, which can make all the difference.”
To date, more than $3.3 billion in CARES Act relief dollars have been distributed in Ohio to help with the prevention, relief and recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. This action follows the General Assembly’s approval in September of $650 million to local communities through House Bill 614; $350 million in June through House Bill 481; the state Controlling Board’s authorization in August of $175 million for counties, municipalities and townships; as well as the state Controlling Board’s approval of $54.5 million specifically for local health department.
For more information on the grant programs, interested applicants are asked to visit the Ohio Development Services Agency website. Applications may be submitted beginning Nov. 2.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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