COLUMBUS — Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) issued a statement today following the informal hearing of Senate Bill (SB) 357, which appropriates the remaining $650 million local government Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds.
The distribution formula used for these remaining funds and the committee process that allowed testimony only were unusual. Instead of basing the distribution on the local government fund formula as it was in HB 481 and when Controlling Board has approved other rounds of CARES Act funding, Republicans determined unilaterally that the distribution for SB 357 should be allocated by a per capita formula. This means that more densely populated cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Akron and Canton get substantially shortchanged* millions and more suburban, rural areas are getting increased funding to handle COVID-19 related expenses.
Cleveland ~$43.9 million
Cincinnati ~$17.8 million
Dayton ~$10.2 million
Toledo ~$8.7 million
Akron ~$7.6 million
Canton ~$4.3 million
Furthermore, House Finance Committee Co-Chairs noticed the committee meeting today as an “informal hearing,” meaning amendments could not be offered from House Democrats. Several Democratic Representatives from some of the areas most shortchanged voiced their disapproval during the meeting. Rep. West was one of them.
“The Local Government Fund’s distribution formula would have better fit the needs of communities that have been hardest-hit by the pandemic. That much is very clear from the data we’ve seen from the Governor and the Ohio Department of Health, as well as our local health departments,” said Rep. West. “This switch to per capita funding shifts funding away from those who need it most to those in less populated areas whose communities have not experienced the brunt of the pandemic. Now, cities like Canton are getting less financial support to control the spread of COVID-19 and support residents and businesses that are still hurting. That is the bottom line.”
“What’s more, we had so little time to discuss this incredibly significant piece of legislation and no ability to offer amendments due to the “informal” nature of the hearing. SB 357 was passed by the Senate three weeks ago, and the House waited until now to act. There is simply no excuse for this type of maneuvering, especially when people’s lives and livelihoods are so affected by it. Our communities had less of a voice today because of the rushed and secretive nature of this process.”
As House Finance met for this “informal” hearing today to discuss this bill, Senate Republicans were simultaneously amending the $650 million of CARES Act funds into HB 614 during the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.