The state Controlling Board voted to split $90 million of federal taxpayer money aimed to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic between the Ohio Health Department – which will receive $8.5 million – and rural transportation departments across the state, which will receive the balance of $81.9 million to “aid for rural transportation systems,” according to a statement released by Democrats Monday.
“We need to ensure health care workers and officials on the ground have the tools they need to detect, track and contain this virus before we begin to reopen our state. This funding is a step in the right direction to get us where we need to be, but we’re not there yet,” said Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron).
The funds are a part of the federal Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (HB 533) signed by President Trump in early March.
According to the statement, the $8.5 million “will be used to increase testing capacity and carry out mitigation strategies, including surveillance, contact tracing and infection control measures.”
Meanwhile, $81.9 million will be used to “support capital, operating and other expenses for 37 of the state’s rural transportation service providers” in response to the pandemic.
“Our rural transportation systems have been hit hard by this virus,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), who sits on the state Controlling Board. “Supporting rural transit supports those who rely on them every day, including those on the front lines – healthcare workers, grocery employees and other essential workers keeping our state moving in the face of this historic crisis.”
The State Controlling Board is a senate committee comprised of four Republicans and two Democrats and – as described in a 2003 Policy Matters Ohio study – “is the final arbiter of hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts and adjusts spending after the budget is approved.”
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Samantha Witwer is a reporter at The Ohio Star.
Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Mj. CC BY-SA 4.0.