SCIOTO — Gov. Mike DeWine’s $1 billion budget proposal could bring major financial assistance to issues facing the county, among them broadband, children’s services and substance abuse.
The budget, which details plans for fiscal years 2022 to 2023, aims to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus, which has taken the lives of 11,695 Ohioans and caused economic and social disarray.
“Major crises can be powerfully transformative events,” he said during last Monday’s news conference. “After what has been an extremely challenging time in Ohio, we have an opportunity with this budget to make the kind of investments that will bring renewal and recovery.”
Seeing an increased need for it during the pandemic, the proposal devotes $250 million in the expansion of broadband internet services. When asked on Thursday, the Scioto County Commissioners were encouraged by this and hoped it would become a reality for residents that do not have access to this resource.
“Let’s hope we see the fruit of that push,” said Commissioner Bryan Davis. “We need that. We have three out of 10 in Scioto County who does not have access to good broadband.”
Davis felt action surrounding this issue has become strong recently at both the federal and state levels. Most recently, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted visited Portsmouth in January to announce a pilot program using Multi-Agency Radio Communication System towers that would broaden access to the service.
“This is the most initiative I’ve seen from both entities, at least as long as I’ve been a commissioner, as far as really wanting to solve this problem,” he said, its need especially high for those doing school and jobs from home.
Mentioned at both the commissioners and the Scioto County Board of Children Services Friday meeting, funding for family and children services would see tremendous growth throughout the next few years. The Investing in Ohio Initiative details the transformation, which says the budget aims to “promote independent families, build resilient children and bring greater transparency” for the services in a press release.
In total, $240 million would be invested into the State Child Protection Allocation in all 88 county public children services agencies. This sum will allow an expansion of Foster Care Recruitment while reducing custody relinquishment of MultisystemYouth.
“The Governor maintained the bulk of the unprecedented increases made two years ago,” wrote Public Children Services Association of Ohio Executive Director Angela Sausser in a support letter. “In challenging budget years, we sometimes see reductions in county allocations, but the Governor kept his word to continue moving forward his vision for stabilizing the children services system and working toward transformation.”
According to Ohio Office of Budget and Management documentation regarding the state Department of Job and Family Services, family and children services would see a 58% increase from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022, moving from $134.2 million to $212.2 million and up from $73.2 million in fiscal 2018.
Among other provisions applauded by the commissioners were the indigent defense, where $125 million will be reimbursed each year across the state and about $54 million will come through the counties’ indigent defense support fund.
Davis, he was not sure of the extent of the support fund’s impact just yet but should know more in the weeks to come after the County Commissioners Association of Ohio meeting.
“That will hopefully give counties more money to be able to budget with and reduce our dependency on indigent defense,” he said, often a topic of discussion during meetings.
Commissioner Scottie Powell also expressed support for DeWine, including indigent defense in the budget. He was mainly pleased with the proposal that will need to be reviewed by the state Legislature.
“Overall, it’s encouraging and let’s see how it washes,” he said, also adding how he liked the development of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ budget, which will help a county project in West Portsmouth.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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