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County receives second round of CARES funding

LISBON — Columbiana County’s second round of federal CARES Act funding has been received, but a number of communities have yet to take action necessary to access those dollars.

The county auditor’s office confirmed receiving $1.5 million in CARES money on Aug. 31, but officials reported some of the cities, villages and townships have yet to pass a resolution needed to spend its first-round allocation let alone the second.

Those communities that have yet to pass a resolution are: Columbiana, Hanoverton, Leetonia, Rogers, Summitville, Washingtonville and the following townships: Elkrun, Franklin, Salem and Washington.

County Auditor Nancy Milliken, whose office is in charge of overseeing disbursement of the money to local governments, has not heard why they have declined to act, but she noted all of them except Columbiana are among the smallest communities in the county and that may have something to do with it.

“Some of the smaller communities may not have any expenses and don’t anticipate any,” she said.

The money can only be spent on coronavirus-related expenses, such as face masks, shields, disinfectant, hand sanitizers, plexiglass barriers, gloves, protective gowns and some emergency personnel expenses. It cannot be used to cover budget shortfalls due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus, nor can it spent on wages, although federal legislators have talked about making that an allowable expense.

Milliken said another factor could be some communities may have difficulty meeting those spending guidelines, especially the smaller ones. She said expenditures will be audited by the state, and those determined to have improperly spent funds could be required to repay the money.

“Everyone has to very careful because the state auditor will be looking at it very closely,” she said.

Unspent CARES money is to be returned to the county treasurer’s office by Oct. 15, but Milliken said state legislature is talking about extending the deadline to Nov. 20. The county auditor can reallocate unspent funds to local governments, and all unspent dollars must be returned to the state by Dec. 28.

The county received a combined $3 million in June under the CARES Act, with half going to county commissioners and the rest distributed to the other local governments based on population. Milliken said the county is only getting a combined $1.5 million during the second round.

CARES stands for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress in April to help federal, state and local governments, businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic.

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