COLUMBUS — Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) 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 and Akron 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. Cleveland Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), who represents one of the poorest districts in the state and one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, was one of them.
“Let’s call this what it actually is: legislative robbery, electorate bribery and more Republican sleight of hand,” said Rep. Howse. “The human impact of COVID-19 has not been per capita. The areas that are most hardest hit are the ones who are being cut the most by this new funding formula designed by Statehouse Republicans to benefit their own districts. Republicans want to give more to their own communities when their own communities aren’t the ones hurting the most - mine is. And it is being shortchanged $43.9 million and I don’t even have the ability to offer an amendment to this bill to help them.
This bill was passed by the Senate three weeks ago. During that time, Republicans could have been holding public hearings, allowing constituents to weigh in on their desired path forward or permitting House Democrats to offer amendments to make the bill better, but instead Republicans have found a way to circumvent the traditional process and make this allocation as undemocratic and self-serving as possible.”
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.
*Editor’s note: A spreadsheet containing estimated allocation comparisons is attached.