Portman: Ohio municipalities need more funding in next Federal aid bill

Coronavirus
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WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 08: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) steps off the Senate subway at the U.S. Capitol, October 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. Democrats and Republicans are still at a stalemate on funding for the federal government as the shut down goes into eighth day. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – U.S. Senator Rob Portman said he’s working to get more federal funding to local Ohio governments when Congress and the Senate begin working on its next COVID-19 aid bill. He made the remarks during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, he said municipalities are seeing a large decline in revenue. Local governments are already getting aid through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, but Portman said more is needed for Ohio municipalities due to how they’re funded – mainly by income and sales taxes. He said he’s working on this with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and hopes to have more funding for local governments in the next aid package.

“Ohio is in an unusual situation,” Portman said. “This can become a safety issue because it’s essential municipalities can provide the ultimate safety response. That’s what people always look for, but particularly during a crisis like this.”

Portman said Ohio would receive $2.6 billion during the first allotment of local government aid from the CARES Act. Municipalities with over 500,000 citizens will get aid straight from the federal government – that includes Montgomery County. Four other Ohio counties are on that list, along with Columbus, the only city. The rest of the funds will be allocated by the state. Portman said Ohio should receive near $4.5 billion in total once both allotments are delivered.

Portman said along with more money for municpalities he would like to see local goverenments allowed more flexibility to use funds.

“We need flexibility on how this is spent,” Portman said. “If (municipalities) have no revenue to pay for some of these absolute needs like public safety, it becomes a real problem.”

Other notes from Portman’s teleconference:

  • Portman said he’s addressing the Federal Communications about allowing free telecommunications between inmates in prisons and family. He said prisons see better results with inmates when they are allowed to communicate with families.
  • At least one caucus in the Senate is looking at working with foreign countries on shutting down wet markets, public places where fresh animals and vegetables are sold. The animals are usually slaughtered on-site and kept fresh by being put in water, according to Portman. He said the SARS outbreak was traced to wet markets in China. National Geographic reported these same markets likely launched COVID-19. “We don’t have those kinds of markets (in the United States), but we want to try to play a role in shutting them down because we’ve seen how they’ve impacted the world,” Portman said.
  • Portman said the state stockpile of PPE (personal protective equipment) for medical workers is running low. He said he’s sent a letter to FEMA for additional PPE as well as contacted private companies for additional equipment.
  • The Senate is working with financial security specialists on allowing votes and hearings while the country is battling the COVID-19 outbreak. Portman said he’s concerned Congress and the Senate aren’t functioning as quickly as it can during the outbreak.
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