Ohio’s townships still waiting for relief funding as distribution deadline nears

Ohio Headlines

(WTRF) – Projects are ready to go, but they don’t have the funding to complete them. That’s the problem for Ohio’s 1,308 townships as they wait to see if they’ll get much-needed money from the American Rescue Plan. 

There’s a 60-day distribution window for the U.S. Treasury to allocated funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, but that time limit is about half over.

The Ohio Township Association told 7News these forms of local government across the country probably weren’t intentionally overlooked in the bill. It all came down to what defines local government in the legislation. 

This bill is like the infrastructure in our area. It needs fixed.

Ed Good, Trustee, Mead Township

The Ohio Township Association said the change in the language happened when the American Rescue Plan went from the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate. In order to streamline which local governments get the money, the definition changed to follow the U.S. Census. 

The goal was to make sure that only units of local governments were eligible to receive these funds as opposed to what some people might call local government by a joint fire district or a airport authority. They might be considered a local government in some of their states, but they do not provide all the functions of local government like we do here in Ohio with municipalities and townships.

Heidi Fought, Executive Director, Ohio Township Association

Villages and municipalities made the cut, but townships did not. 

Here in Ohio we have unincorporated areas, which are governed by townships, and incorporated areas, which are governed by municipalities. If the census is using definition of local government by incorporated territories, then that would only be municipalities.

Heidi Fought, Executive Director, Ohio Township Association

Fought explained there is a clause that says the U.S. Treasury could extend if they need more time to distribute, but the 60-day time frame began the day President Biden signed the legislation.

Now they continue to work with Ohio’s lawmakers and other states with the same struggle to try and secure the much needed funding. 

They count. They should get support based on population. That’s the way this is usually done, so a  township of 10,000 people should get half of what a city of 20,000 gets and that’s my goal in this. I don’t know what the Secretary of Treasury will rule. I’m going to be fighting for townships either way to make sure they get enough from county or states, but especially if we can get it directly to them.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, (D) Ohio

In Meade Township we received $160,000 through CARES Act which helped us a great deal with upgrades to our facilities and with equipment, but this bill here for the infrastructure, this is shovel-ready projects that we have ready to go that people would see a real impact.

Ed Good, Trustee, Mead Township

If the U.S. Treasury doesn’t determine townships are eligible for American Rescue Plan funding it doesn’t mean they still won’t get any. The Ohio Township Association explained they’ll then ask the state or even counties for some of their dollars. Then the question becomes can those entities spare the money?

You’re talking about funding for a three-year period of time and you know I’m not really sure folks are going to be willing to share some of those funds knowing they would have about three years to use them.

Heidi Fought, Executive Director, Ohio Township Association

The townships said they supported the recovery plan and provide vital resources to their populations, so they hope they money comes. 

The township form of government is proven to be the most efficient, effective form of local government. We have to balance our budget whether we like it or not. If you call the township in many cases it’s the trustees that are on the ground.

Ed Good, Trustee, Mead Township

Townships make up roughly 35% of Ohio’s population, and just like most other governments, they’re feeling the financial strain of the past year plus. 

Mead Township said it took local government cuts even before the pandemic, so trustees hope the American Rescue Plan funding comes through. 

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