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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Hamilton County Commission Approves Spending Related To COVID-19

Bill Rinehart

The Hamilton County commissioners voted on $10.9 million in spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday. The largest piece was a nearly $7 million advance to the Cincinnati Museum Center

The funding comes from reserve money from a sales tax used to renovate and repair Union Terminal.

The Center will use the funds to pay off construction debt related to the restoration and repair work, and that will free up cash for its operating expenses.

The museum is closed for the COVID-19 pandemic and it's losing $1-2 million a month in revenue.

Officials have reduced the salaries and benefits for the senior leadership team and suspended contributions to retirement funds.

If the closure lasts beyond this month, the center will be forced to reduce staff and cut pay for those who remain employed.

The plan was for the county, working with the Union Terminal Restoration Advisory Committee, to eventually transfer those reserve funds to the Museum Center for future maintenance and preservation.

Meanwhile, the commission also appropriated $600,000 to Strategies to End Homelessness to assist with sheltering families and high-risk individuals in local hotels and motels. Many family shelters have been doing this for a couple weeks. 

The $600,000 will come from the voter-approved indigent care tax levy, and it's hoped recently approved federal funds can be used to reimburse that fund.

The commission will vote next week on reallocating another $500,000 of federal funding for Strategies, too.  The vote on that funding was held because of concerns about a public comment period, since federal funds are being reallocated.

The $10.9 million also includes funding for medical supplies and some new equipment for the county's emergency management center.

The commission did hold several spending resolutions with growing concerns about the county's revenues because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The board will likely vote next week on an $8.7 million parking structure at The Banks needed to support a park to serve as the outdoor area for concerts at the music venue that's being constructed just east of Paul Brown Stadium.

In addition, the commission delayed approval of $1.7 million in spending related to Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park because of concerns about balances in the stadium fund with projected lower sales tax revenues. 

Those items included:

  • A new pickup truck for Paul Brown Stadium
  • Concrete and waterproofing repairs at Paul Brown Stadium
  • Steel cleaning and overcoating at GABP

County administrators will take a closer look at those items before the commission votes on the spending.
A half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 1996 is used to pay off the debt on the two stadiums, and for maintenance and upkeep. 

If there's a shortage in the stadium fund to make the debt payments, the money would have to come for the county's general fund. 

That fund is also being challenged because of lower revenue collections.