Richland County courthouse

Richland County Courthouse

MANSFIELD -- Richland County expects to receive another $4.3 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, Commissioner Tony Vero told department heads on Thursday morning.

The Ohio Senate has approved release of the funds and the House is expected to follow suit, Vero said.

If approved, it will raise the county's total CARES Act funds to $7.3 million, which must be encumbered by Oct. 15 and spent by the end of 2020 on expenses related to the pandemic.

The county previously received $2 million in the "first wave" and $1 million in the second as the state releases the funds approved by the federal government in March.

Vero said the initial $2 million has largely been spent, including:

-- up to $500,000 for mobile hotspots for schools to aide in online learning.

-- $611,989 to digitize property records in the recorder's office, some dating back to the early 19th century.

-- $275,000 for a small business grant program.

-- $204,030.80 for the sheriff to purchase four marked department vehicles to be equipped specifically to transport arrestees and prisoners who have been confirmed to have or are suspected of being infected with COVID-19; as well as various reimbursements

Commissioners urged department heads to consider ways to spend the funds.

Vero said he expects to bring in a proposal in the next two weeks for the sheriff's department payroll and benefits, especially in the county jail.

"The sheriff's department, the jail in particular, has been in the front lines (during the pandemic.) We have about 18 pages of documents that will show how our sheriff's department substantially dedicated their services in response to the pandemic.

"We plan to use a large portion, several million, on public safety payroll," Vero said. "But let's say we use $3 million, that would mean we still have $2.3 million to spend."

One possibility discussed was to provide computers, cameras and other equipment that would allow Dayspring residents to virtually "meet" with loved ones during the pandemic until visitation restrictions are lessened or lifted, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

"I am saying this to all (department heads). Use the (relief funds) rules to help our county and our people," Vero said. "Be quick, but don't hurry."

Also on Thursday, commissioners said the county continues to bounce back economically from the COVID-19 shutdown this spring.

Vero said it appears the county is on par in 2019 through August with sales tax revenues, though commissioners had budgeted for a 6 percent revenue increase in 2020.

"It's trending up," he said. "If August shakes out the way we hope, our eight major revenue sources will be be down 3.55 percent year to date. That's about $759,000. It's not horrible, but obviously we will be down."

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"