YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) –– Mahoning County will receive about $44 million as its share of the stimulus package President Joe Biden signed into law yesterday. Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti is already thinking of where it could be spent.
He said there are a number of construction projects already in the works that could use some of that funding and more could be introduced with the stimulus package funding. There are still many unknowns to the new American Rescue Plan.
“Is it gonna be just straight money, ‘Here you go,’ or is it gonna be like a grant where there’s a local match component to that?” Ginnetti said.
He admits he’s already been brainstorming ways to put the money to use.
“There’s a lot we can can do with that, between roads, bridges and culverts. I can easily spend all $44 million, you know, overnight,” Ginnetti said. “We’ve got a lot of big bridges, too, that are starting to hit their useful life that may need some work done to them.”
Language put out by lawmakers suggests the money be used on infrastructure projects, such as road, sewers and improving broadband access.
“We have South Avenue programmed for paving through … Mathews through Western Reserve Road. That’ll enable us to accelerate those projects and get ’em done sooner,” Ginnetti said.
But the funds could also replace local tax revenues that were lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ginnetti says more details will be needed from Washington on how the money can be spent.
The package does include $350-billion to cover lost revenues tied to the pandemic.Youngstown alone lost $2-and-a-half million from 2019’s income tax collections to last year’s and is projecting a further decline in 2021.
In Mahoning County, the Budget Director is still compiling figures, but anticipates court fees, bed taxes and casino revenues all decreased.
However officials admit sales taxes were not down so much as not generating what they could have.
Commissioners believe the county could have collected $1.6 million more, had the pandemic not occurred. Language in the American Rescue Plan indicates such reductions that can be blamed on COVID-19 may be replaced.
“We want to help communities that have been hurt with lost revenue … and need it,” said Valley Congressman Tim Ryan, D-13th District.
But Ryan is also quick to admit the bulk of the American Rescue Plan has little to do with expenses tied to the pandemic, but instead restores funding that’s been cut over the last 30 years.
“I don’t think we should apologize for one second for finally making the kind of investments in the communities that they need,” Ryan said.
At this point, money is still being spent from last year’s CARES Act. Although further details will be key to how the funding is used, these new funds need to be spent by the end of 2024