Tallmadge Council, administration prepare for receiving CARES Act funds

Federal and state funding will help keep safety forces such as Tallmadge firefighters from being furloughed because of financial expenses related to COVID-19.

TALLMADGE – The city is prepared to receive an estimated $602,000 from the state and another $602,000 from the county this week but may have to wait on spending it on first responder salaries.

The passage of House Bill 481 allows the distribution of $350 million in federal CARES Act funds to aid the coronavirus response in Ohio communities.

Municipalities have been waiting for the CARES Act funding to help with the financial needs generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial directors from the different communities in Summit County met June 12 with county representatives to find out about the distribution, said Mayor David Kline.

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 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 salaries above what was already budgeted before the pandemic.

Brian Nelson, chief of staff for County Executive Ilene Shapiro, said the CARES Act had limited directions on how the funds could be used and newer released guidelines conflicted with previous guidelines. Originally regular salaries in the budget were not to be allowed, but then public safety and public health employees who were substantially dedicated to COVID-19 work wouldn’t need documentation.

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 city council met in a special meeting to pass legislation to be eligible for those funds, Kline said.

Finance Chair Craig Sisak introduced the legislation June 18 in a virtual meeting, “Accepting County Coronavirus Relief Distribution Funds received by the county of Summit pursuant to House Bill 481 and making affirmations pursuant to the requirements of that legislation and providing for immediate enactment.” The legislation was unanimously approved.

Through HB 481, 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.

Summit County Council last week 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 funds to help cities, villages and townships in the county pay their public safety and health employees.

Tallmadge’s law director Megan Raber said the county will distribute the funds from the state and county. The county has a window of seven days from when they receive federal funds and the municipalities needed the resolution.

“When the county gets the green light, they have seven days to enact the funds to the municipalities,” Kline said “They can’t do that if the cities don’t have a resolution passed to receive the funds and set up the funds.”

The resolution allows the city to receive the funds from the county, Kline said.

“That’s why we had to move quickly and adopt it because we don’t know when the state will make the distribution to the county,” Raber said.

The city’s director of Finance Mollie Gilbride said the county only has seven day so they wanted to make sure municipalities had this resolution in place so they could receive the money.

The city of Tallmadge is estimated to receive $602,000 from the state based on local distribution funds through the state, Gilbride said.

Gilbride said the city would have to follow the guidelines already in place for the CARES Act funds.

“Summit County has done a lot of work,” Gilbride said. “We are potentially going to receive distribution from the county and they are looking to match this.”

The city could potentially receive $1.2 million for COVID-19 related expenses.

“After setting up the fund, we’ll have to track all the spending through this,” Gilbride said. “We’ll need a resolution in July to appropriate those funds.”

Sisak asked how the money could be used and if it could go toward expenses at the Tallmadge Recreation Center.

The CARES Act allows the funds to be used for the salaries for public safety, Gilbride said.

“Although the expenses incurred at the recreation center because of COVID-19 are potentially reimbursable, it is easier to track public safety salaries than little expenditures here and there,” she said. “Council approved some FEMA funding so we’ll reimburse some of those smaller items with it.”

Dr. Donald Cooper, director of administration, is in charge of the FEMA funds in a grant he is working on, Kline said. Those items purchased for the Recreation Center such as plexi-glass and hand sanitizer fall under the FEMA and Cooper is tracking those.

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