Commission discusses CARES Act funds

By Eddie Mowen Jr. -

EATON — Preble County Auditor Lavon Wright met with Preble County Commissioners on Wednesday, June 17, to discuss the county’s plans for federal CARES Act funding to be distributed by the state.

Wright has registered on the Ohio Office of Budget & Management, as required, to allow Preble County to be eligible to receive its allotment of CARES Act funding. According to information Wright shared with the commission, once received, the funds will be disbursed using the local government fund formula and county formula as voted on by the budget commission in 2019, and the county auditor is solely responsible for the distribution as the payments come in from OBM per the breakdown.

Now a resolution regarding the funds must be passed by the commission to allow the county to receive its allotment.

Wright also noted, there are two funds which must be established for accounting procedures dealing with the money. One is an agency fund, which is for the distribution of funds to the county’s townships and villages. (Preble County gets 47 percent of the funds received, while the townships and villages will get a percentage of the entire formula, according to Wright.) This fund will be an “in-and-out” fund for the sole purpose of distributing to the local government entities. The second fund, a special revenue fund, will be the “Coronavirus Relief Fund,” for the 47 percent of the money to be used and administered by the county commissioners. Amounts and guidelines could change, according to Wright and Commissioner Chris Day, who had reviewed information supplied by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio — based on any changes at the state level.

Local government entities and the county each must pass a resolution to be eligible for receipt of the funds, according to Wright.

The county commissioners must “pass a resolution promising to use the funds in accordance with the federal law, which obviously we know we’ve not gotten a list completely of what that can be used for yet,” Wright said. Wright offered to help the county commission do whatever research was needed to find out what the Coronavirus Relief Fund could be used for, but said she is not the administrator of that fund.

“I think that we need to, instead of guessing what the money is going to be able to be spent on, we need to wait to get the official word from the feds to say ‘here are the things you can spend it on,’” Commissioner Denise Robertson said. “I’m sure the state’s going to add their little things in there. So, we won’t go spending out of control. We can’t spend it on this, we can on this — but just wait and see what they say.”

Wright pointed out, although the “Frequently Asked Questions” documents have been changing regularly, as long as the commission had each of the updates of the documents released, they could substantiate spending. “If you’re following what’s in each packet to substantiate why you’re spending the money, you have it in writing — you clip that to your bill,” she said.

Wright said another county auditor told her recently townships and villages needed to have at least $3,300 in expenditures to qualify. She is not sure if this is true and said she would research further.

Wright also noted, she is still researching the first allocation and how the funds that are not spent are redistributed after the Oct. 15 deadline.

“We’re not looking to make money off of this, we’d just like to be made whole,” Robertson said.

According to Wright, it is her understanding the commissioners will need to pass a resolution creating the funds prior to distributing them. All townships and villages must have their own resolutions as well, she said, but, “we’re like the mothership. And then there’s branches, so we have to have a resolution in order to receive all the money.”

Camden resident Mary Bullen addressed commissioners as an advocate for housing in Preble County. “There’ve been discussions with all those people involved in trying to make sure that we have affordable housing in Preble County. The great concern in our state or county and nationally, is that this recession is going to cause an unprecedented loss of housing — that mortgage payments are difficult to be making right now. That rent is difficult to make because of COVID. And we are very interested in being involved in helping to get that assistance out to all areas of the county, so that they can have help in making those payments, as they prove that they were caused by COVID, not only in rental and mortgage assistance, but also for water payments, electric payments and other things that have caused them to be at risk to be homeless.

“Because, if our population increases in homelessness, costs are going to go up to our community and stress and problems to families in Preble county will increase,” she added.

“We don’t know what we’re allowed to spend this money on yet,” Robertson responded. “There have been talks of helping the employers get back up on their feet so these people could actually have their jobs back and be able to pay their bills. So, until we find out what those rules are to be sure, I think that this is supposed to get the economy churning again and get things going. Which, as a result, would help people to stay in their houses and keep their jobs.”

“We have more questions than answers right now,” Robertson said.

“It would be interesting if all the chambers in the county and the Economic Development Partnership would be partners in trying to find those individuals that are struggling because of their small businesses,” Bullen said. “We all know that Preble Countians love to work for themselves, we love to be self-employed. And a lot of the times they might not be reading the paper or notices that come out, so if we are more proactive to come out and let people know about how we can help them, we won’t hear so much, ‘I didn’t hear about that,’ and now it’s too late to be of any help.”

No decision regarding a county resolution was made during the meeting.

By Eddie Mowen Jr.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.