Tri-State cities snubbed by current federal aid bill, mayor says

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Under the federal aid bill as it currently exists, neither the City of Cincinnati nor any municipality in the Tri-State area would receive direct money to fight COVID-19, according to Mayor Cranley.

The White House and Senate leaders announced agreement Wednesday on the historc $2 trillion emergency bill intended to rush aid to businesses, workers and a healthcare system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Related | $2 trillion virus rescue bill hits late snags in Senate

The current bill would distribute general allocation money to cities across the United States, which they would have discretion to use as they see fit. During his Wednesday briefing, Cranley offered the City of Cincinnati might use the money to help its police and fire departments deal with the outbreak.

But as it stands, Cincinnati won’t see any of that money, and neither would Tri-State municipalities like Blue Ash, Fairfield, Covington and Mason, Cranley said.

At issue is the bill’s population criterion. According to Cranley, a city must have a population of 500,000 to receive general allocation money.

The problem is, municipal populations are more historical accidents than accurate representations of how many people live in a ‘city’ as it is traditionally conceived.

A frequently used population measure is metropolitan statistical area — Cincinnati has Ohio’s largest MSA at 2.19 million, Columbus the second-largest MSA at 2.10 million and Cleveland the third-largest at 2.06 million.

But when it comes to the federal aid bill, only Columbus, with a municipal population of 892,533, would receive aid.

Cincinnati’s municipal population stands at 302,605.

Just 32 cities in the country would qualify for the bill’s general allocation money, Cranley said.

A spokesperson from Cranley’s office clarified it’s possible the City of Cincinnati and other smaller municipalities could apply for various funds and programs created by the aid bill. Still, it’s the general allocation money Cranley believes the city needs to fund its fight against COVID-19.

The mayor said the population formula used by HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program would be better.

“We generally believe it’s fair,” the mayor said of the CDBG formula, "and it would deliver some dollars not only to the city and county, but a lot of places like Blue Ash and Fairfield."

Cranley clarified he is in favor of other parts of the federal aid bill, such as the increased benefits to unemployed individuals, but that “if they are going to send money to local governments, which they are going to do, they should do so fairly.”

He added Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown as well as Representatives Wenstrup and Chabot have all told him they are “personally committed to lobby on that point, and we are thankful for that.”

City Health Commissioner Melba Moore announced two more cases of COVID-19 in Cincinnati, bringing the city’s total to 29.

She clarified an announcement yesterday about those who attended two bars on March 13 that were also attended by an infected person. If bar-goers go 14 days without showing symptoms — March 27 — they should consider themselves “clear.”

As to the Stay-at-Home order in effect since Tuesday, Cranley described city-wide compliance as “very good.”

Customers of local bars asked to 'please monitor your symptoms'

The mayor said renters will not be evicted in Cincinnati during this period of the outbreak.

“Evictions, if you are a renter, are not happening,” he explained, “because the courts are closed for 30 days, and you cannot be evicted without a court order.”

Cranley continued: “That’s not to say don’t pay your rent, but you do have some time.”

A bill passerby the Ohio General Assembly Wednesday and now awaiting Gov. DeWine’s signature would replace Ohio’s canceled March 17 election with an entirely absentee-ballot election, the mayor said. The deadline to vote absentee would be April 28.

Cranley stumped briefly for Issue 7, a measure that would reduce the city’s income tax and “provide critical funding to fix the Western Hills Viaduct and things of that nature,” he said.

Supporters fear the measure has been halfway forgotten amid the pandemic, but it will remain on the ballot.

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