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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.

Cincinnati Officially Requests Financial Help From Hamilton County

Bill Rinehart

Cincinnati officials are requesting $15 million from Hamilton County to help pay for the city's expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Manager Patrick Duhaney made the request in a letter to County Administrator Jeff Aluotto on Thursday.

"Hamilton County has received or will receive over $140 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund," Duhaney wrote. "Approximately $50 million of that sum is estimated as being received on behalf of the population and residents of the city of Cincinnati. The city needs at least a portion of those dollars to cover eligible expenses for FY2020 and FY2021, which starts July 1, 2020. Therefore, I am hereby requesting $15 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund monies received or to be received by Hamilton County under the CARES Act."

Duhaney said through May 16 the city had $5,233,768 of eligible expenses related to COVID-19 response. The city anticipates spending another $9,766,232 for the remainder of the year.

The city has furloughed several full and part-time employees to save money, and it requested some human services, neighborhood, and economic development agencies return some of the money the city was providing to them in contracts.

Hamilton County received nearly $143 million from the CARES Act, and county leaders have set aside $50 million of that for "Community/Economic Assistance." One line of that category lists "reimbursement to communities for COVID-19 response (secondary to other state or federal funding).

County Commission President Denise Driehaus said county officials are waiting to see how the State of Ohio will distribute funding to local communities that it received from the CARES Act.

"We're waiting for the state dollars to come down first," Driehaus said. "I hope it's next week and then we will evaluate that and move forward with our dollars."

Driehaus said the county is ready to assist Cincinnati and other jurisdictions with federal money.

The amount of money Cincinnati is expected to receive from the state has been changing.

"The city hoped to receive significant funding from the state for such expenses under the proposed Senate Bill 310; however, with proposed changes in the Ohio House, the city would only receive $15 million from the state," Duhaney wrote. "Instead of the previously estimated $45 million."

The city must fill a $2 million gap in the current budget which ends on June 30. The projected deficit for the new spending plan starting July 1 is between $78 and $96 million.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Driehaus announced Friday the county will use about $20 million in CARES Act funding to increase COVID-19 testing.

She said that additional testing would be targeted toward first responders and frontline workers, people living in congregate facilities, and minority and high-risk populations.

Credit Provided / City of Cincinnati
City of Cincinnati
Chart showing the city of Cincinnati's current and projected expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.