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Ohio mayors visit White House to deliver stories of ‘opportunity’ with federal relief funds

Mayors from different Ohio cities, including Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (third from the right), attend a meeting at the White House to discuss the use of federal relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act on September 7, 2022.
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Mayors from different Ohio cities, including Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (third from the right), attend a meeting at the White House to discuss the use of federal relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act on September 7, 2022.

Mayors from Ohio cities said they went to the White House to share their success stories and to tout how money from the American Rescue Plan Act created a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for their communities.

The federal American Rescue Plan Act sent more than $5.3 billion to the state with an additional $2.2 billion that went straight to Ohio cities.

Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown said the money, which was approved just two months into President Joe Biden’s term, came just in time.

“I think if it had not happened when it did, I think you see a different result from several cities,” said Brown.

The group of city leaders included 12 Democratic mayors and one independent mayor. The American Rescue Plan Act was passed along party lines in 2021 and did not get any votes from Republicans in Congress.

The mayors all had different perspectives to offer as to how their cities are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We're making investments in housing and workforce development and access to healthcare and many other areas that we deal with on the local level in our community every day,” said Lima Mayor Sharetta Smith, describing some of the topics she covered during the White House meeting.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said, for rural regions, expanding broadband became an important investment to keep up with the needs of the workforce.

“Being able to use that money to get broadband to where it's needed so we can get more of our Ohioans on the digital economy and creating their own businesses to be able to engage and perform,” Patterson said.

Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther said these stories highlight the value of the federal money going straight to local governments.

“The challenges in Lima are different than Youngstown in Athens and in Columbus, and because this money is coming directly to mayors, to cities, and to counties, we're able to invest in the needs of our people on the ground to help them stay in their homes, help to protect and provide for their children and build a stronger economy as we come out of this pandemic,” Ginther said.

The state has used 65% of the funds it received from ARPA, leaving $1.9 billion to spend. Many requests have been submitted to Gov. Mike DeWine and the state legislature. DeWine said his office is reviewing these requests but said it’s up to state lawmakers to approve the allocation of the remaining funds.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.