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Hamilton Co. leaders look to fund 'transformational change' with $64 million in stimulus

Becca Costello

Millions of dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan is still on the table in Hamilton County and commissioners are starting a debate on how best to spend the money.

The county will get a total $158 million from the American Rescue Plan; of that, about $64 million is left to allocate. A consulting firm spent the last few months meeting with stakeholders and developing a list of recommendations.

Commission President Stephanie Summerow Dumas says they want to fund projects that create transformational change.

"This money won't be here always, and we're looking not only at short term goals for the ones we're giving the money to, but also long term goals," she said.

Commissioners previously approved certain amounts for several priority areas; within those priorities, the consultants have identified specific projects, but not necessarily specific organizations.

Public health infrastructure: $6 million

  • $3 million to improve critical preparedness infrastructure
  • $1.5 million to continue COVID-19 testing and vaccination support
  • $1.5 million to support health care workforce through expansion of local nursing programs

Mental and behavioral health: $8 million

  • $5 million to expand mobile crisis team
  • $1 million to improve awareness of mental health issues
  • $2 million to enhance youth resiliency to address the impacts of social isolation

Affordable housing production and preservation: $30 million

  • $17.5 million to implement a grant program to produce new affordable housing units
  • $2.5 million to develop a sustainable affordable housing project
  • $8 million to support rehabilitation of existing affordable housing
  • $2 million to establish a home repair program

Homelessness prevention: $5 million

  • $3 million to expand shelter diversion program
  • $2 million to invest in homelessness prevention innovation

Workforce development and youth employment: $15 million

  • $7.5 million to support workforce programs aligned with target industries
  • $2 million for marketing and awareness of in-demand careers
  • $1 million for enhancing collaboration and service delivery of workforce partners

Vice President Alicia Reece says she'd like to see a new youth development office and more focus on seniors.
"I think it's important that as we're moving forward with these so-called new one-time dollars, that we are also looking at some new ways and new ideas," Reece said. "We don't want this to be a cushion for what we've already done."

Commissioner Denise Driehaus says she wants the plan to have a greater emphasis on childcare.

"We know that people aren't going back to work because they don't have childcare," she said. "And so it's not only the industry of childcare that's struggling to keep people working at their places of employment, but it's also the reduction of opportunities for childcare in our community."

Previous ARP money has been spent on a variety of areas:

  • $2.9 million for small business grants (does not include other stimulus-funded programs for small businesses)
  • $6.3 million for nonprofit assistance
  • $32 million for revenue replacement
  • Vaccine incentives
  • Premium pay for some county employees
  • Mortgage and utility assistance

Commissioners will hear public comment on the plan at Thursday's regular meeting, then submit their comments to the administration for a second draft.
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Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.