Stow and Munroe Falls could share an estimated $2 million total in both federal and county funds this week.

Munroe Falls is eligible for approximately $303,000 total from both the state and county. Stow’s total distribution will be a total of about $1.8 million from both the state and county.

Stow Council members unanimously passed legislation to be eligible for the County Coronavirus Relief Distribution Funds at a special virtual meeting June 18.

Munroe Falls Mayor James Armstrong said council passed legislation June 16 for the city to receive funds from the state and county.

Armstrong added they are hoping the money will help the city be close to even on the budget.

"The local income tax deadline was pushed back to July 15 so we don’t know what will be coming in," Armstrong said. "That’s when you figure out what you’re going to have coming in. We’re doing our best to estimate that."

The recommendation from Summit County is that all the money be used for covering salaries to the first responders, said Jim Costello, finance director for the city of Stow.

"We have to set up a special account so it all can be charted correctly, and we will do payroll out of that account," Costello said. "Then what salaries were being projected for first responders up to the amount given to us will be returned to the general fund and be used for other things."

Summit County instructed the cities that using the funds for payroll would be the cleanest and easiest way for the money to be accountable to the federal government, Costello said. But at a meeting June 23, Gov. Mike DeWine’s Office of Budget Management added confusion to the interpretation of how the funds could be used. Instead of being used for first responders’ salaries budgeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may only be used for those salaries above what was already budgeted before the pandemic.

Brian Nelson, chief of staff for county executive Ilene Shapiro, said the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act had limited directions on how the funds could be used and newer guidelines conflicted with previous guidelines. 

"Everyone was on the same page and now we’re off the page," Costello said. "Right now we’d love to have the money. It would help with the Stow budget."

Nelson said they are pushing the U.S. Treasury to give further guidance and are working with the state auditor on getting the guidance and any documentation needed for the funds, and if necessary, daily time sheets on what employees are doing.

"The county received distribution today, and we will begin to distribute funds today," Nelson said. "We are advising cities and townships they can use the funds any way appropriate under the CARES Act but if they are using it for payroll, hold off on making that decision until we have better guidance for everyone."

The Ohio General Assembly established a process for distributing funds through the CARES Act in Senate Bill 310, now House Bill 481, of $350 million in aid for coronavirus response in Ohio communities.

Through the bill, about $17.8 million will be sent to Summit County. The county is contributing another $17.8 million from its CARES Act money strictly for payroll support.

In the Stow legislation, expenses covered must be necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019; were not accounted for by the city of Stow in its most recently approved budget as of March 27; and were incurred during March 1 through Dec. 30, 2020.

"We’re registered for when SB 310 is signed and goes into effect," said Stow law director Jaime Syx.

Summit County Council earlier approved a resolution creating the County of Summit COVID-19 Local Government Payroll Support Grant Program.

Summit County also authorized the county executive to execute grant agreements with the 31 communities in Summit County, totaling up to $35 million, to cover funding payroll expenses for public safety and public health positions deemed substantially dedicated to COVID-19 response.

Summit County was eligible for a direct payment of $94.4 million of the CARES Act funds from the federal government because its population exceeds 500,000. The county plans to match the state amounts and the county will distribute both sets of funds to help cities, villages and townships in the county pay their public safety and health employees.

The county must distribute funds within seven days of receiving the money and the city has to have this resolution to receive funding, said John Earle, director of budget and management.

"That’s why we needed the special meeting because of the short time period of seven days," Earle said.

The city is looking at using the funds to pay first responders instead of itemized items used by the safety forces, Earle said.

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com.