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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.

Cranley Says City Needs Federal Help To Balance Budget

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is asking residents to reach out to federal lawmakers to provide funding for local governments in future stimulus legislation. 

Cranley said he's lobbying local Representatives Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup and Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. 

The city must close a $15 million dollar deficit in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. And there's a projected $81 million shortfall for the new budget starting July 1. 

Cranley said those huge deficits could threaten basic services.

"An $80 million deficit, if it becomes to fruition, and we don't have any other options to deal with it, would impact police, fire, sanitation, in a variety of ways," Cranley said. "Whether or not that's layoffs is to be determined and hopefully not likely, but there will be diminishment of those services in more ways than one, if that were to come to pass."

Cranley suggested the budget problems could eliminate parks and recreation funding completely.

The city has already furloughed more than 500 full-time employees until next month to help balance this year's budget.  City Council last week approved a 25% reduction to outside contracts the city has with human services, economic development and neighborhood agencies. 

A recent Brookings Institution study found Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland could be devastated financially because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

For Cincinnati, that's because a huge chunk of the budget comes from income tax revenue, and that has declined significantly with parts of the economy temporarily stopped. 

Cranley said there's no way these cities can survive, or thrive, if the local governments suffer a "catastrophic loss of revenue."

Cranley said the state and federal government have put the country in a medically induced coma.

"They're mandating a shutdown of the economy, which mandates a dramatic loss in tax revenues to local governments," Cranley said. "And yet we're expected not only to provide basic services going forward, but to provide more dangerous basic services and more basic services, more police and fire overtime, more strain at a time where many of our cops and firefighters have to be quarantined, etc."

Cranley said he supports the stay-at-home order and closing some businesses because those actions are saving lives and protecting others from COVID-19. But he said cities and counties across the country will need federal help to survive.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.