Now more than 1,300 of Ohio’s townships are assured part of $422 million in American Rescue Plan funds sent to the state. That follows a bill Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed in June.
Despite a bipartisan effort of Ohio’s congressional delegation to clear up the confusion earlier, Ohio was one of eight states forced to determine whether townships were included in the funding for “non-entitlement units of local government.”
Without state action, a broad swath of the state’s township residents would have been shortchanged, said Heidi M. Fought, Ohio Township Association executive director.
“With townships providing essential services to four million Ohioans, they desperately need these funds, just like cities and villages,” she said.
Townships and small villages in Clark County are expected to receive a total of about $7.3 million. Those in Champaign County will receive $2.8 million. In addition to that, Urbana is slated to receive $1.2 million.
Townships in both counties were initially excluded due to an error in the eligibility process, the News-Sun previously reported.
The $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package signed in March by President Joe Biden included $350 billion in assistance to local governments dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those funds are also designed to help cover revenue losses, boost public infrastructure and assist households, workers and businesses hurt by the pandemic.
However, some trustees say that the guidance they have received this week regarding those funds is vague and they are seeking clarifications.
They also want to direct funds to projects that could help improve infrastructure in their areas. Current guidance mentions efforts to improve water and sewer systems as well as access to broadband.
Moorefield Township Trustee Daren Cotter said they are still in the process of determining which projects meet federal guidelines related to those relief dollars.
Moorefield Twp. is slated to receive the largest portion of American Rescue Plan funds set aside for Clark County townships.
The township expects to receive a total of $1.265 million. That is followed by Bethel Twp., which is slated to receive $1.261 million, and Springfield Twp., which will receive $1.237 million.
The largest portion of the money going to townships in Champaign County will go to Urbana Twp., which is slated to receive $318,443.
Cotter said he and his fellow trustees would like to see that money go towards infrastructure projects. For his township, that would mean improving and maintaining roadways since sewer and water systems are largely maintained by the county.
However, road projects are currently excluded in terms of how that relief money is to be spent. Cotter said that has prompted township trustees to also wait and see if those guidelines will change in the near future.
“Right now we are trying to figure out how we can spend this money. It is fairly restrictive right now. Most townships would like to spend this money on infrastructure,” He added.
Cotter said that they are looking at investing the money into projects that will aid the township in the long run and not be just another repeat expense.
“We are looking to do what is best for the residents of our township,” he said.
Previous relief dollars in Moorefield Twp. that came from the CARES Act were focused on safety amid the coronavirus.
That included purchasing personal protective equipment and additional vehicles for the road department so those employees would not have to ride together.
Cotter said that was in order to maintain social distancing during the height of the pandemic. Coronavirus relief money also went towards covering pay roll expenses for fire and EMS personnel.
Moorefield Twp. received about $536,000 in CARES Act money.
In Bethel Twp., trustees are still in the early process of figuring out how the American Rescue Plan funds will be spent.
Nancy Brown, a township trustee, said that they began going over guidance related to that money this week and it will take some time until they have a fleshed out a list of expenditures.
Right now, Bethel Township trustees are looking at several different projects that may be funded once those federal relief dollars are allocated.
Brown said that not all expenditures have to be coronavirus related, unlike CARES Act funding, which covered mostly direct expenses resulting from the pandemic.
Brown said that projects she and her fellow trustees would be looking at include improvements to the storm water drainage system in Park Layne, with some of those elements needing to be replaced.
Money could also go to improving or maintaining parks in the township such as Raynor and Styer parks.
Those improvements could take the form of landscaping, adding playground equipment as well as fixing up walking paths, Brown said.
“We are looking to use the money to maintain and enhance what we have,” she added.
However, Brown noted that it will take some time before anything is set in stone. She said that trustees are still coming up with potential ideas for the money and that will need to be discussed further.
“We need to verify that everything we want to do qualifies,” she said.
That was a sentiment shared by John Roeder, a trustee for Springfield Twp.
He said there will be meetings in his township to discuss those funds as well as an effort to get more information on how they can be spent.
Staff Writer Chris Stewart contributed to this report.
By the numbers
$7.3M: Amount Clark County townships and small villages will receive in relief funds
$2.8M: Amount Champaign County townships will receive
1,300: Number of townships, once excluded across Ohio, that will now receive funds