Cuyahoga County Council To Consider $5 Million More For Pandemic Response

Seal of Cuyahoga County outside the administration building in Downtown Cleveland.
Cuyahoga County is competing with other governments for personal protective equipment, Executive Armond Budish said. [Nick Castele / ideastream]

Cuyahoga County plans to inject another $5 million into its coronavirus response as it competes with other local government bidders for personal protective equipment.

County council has scheduled a vote on the spending proposal Tuesday afternoon in a livestreamed remote meeting.

The county has already spent $1.75 million, much of it to buy protective equipment including gloves, face shields and N95 respirator masks, according to a spending breakdown posted online.  

“We need a lot more personal protective equipment, but there’s huge amounts of needs,” County Executive Armond Budish told ideastream. “Every day something else comes up. So we’ll spend it as we need it to help the people in this community.”

Budish declared a state of emergency in early March, enabling his administration to make large purchases more quickly.  

But the county has had to compete on the market with other governments for protective gear, he said, blaming the limited national stockpile of equipment.

“Sadly, it is a competition,” he said. “We have orders that we’ve made that have been taken from us because someone else comes in, I believe, and outbids us.”

The administration has considered banding together with other local governments on some purchases, Budish said. The county also set up a drop-off point for donated protective equipment

The county’s emergency operations center determines how to distribute the gear, fielding requests from the sheriff’s department, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and others, Budish said.

The scramble for gear has forced public agencies to find new solutions. Cleveland Public Library is using its 3D printers to make 2,000 face shields for police, fire and EMS. And Gov. Mike DeWine has tried to enlist Ohio manufacturers to produce equipment, too.

Protective gear hasn’t been Cuyahoga County’s only emergency purchase. The county hired ASG Healthcare and Educare Medical Staffing to screen people at county buildings like the Justice Center, Juvenile Court and main administrative headquarters.

The county has also created a $3 million program to support small businesses closed during the pandemic, drawing on its own funds and donations.

Like many local governments, the county is bracing for a revenue crunch as coronavirus shutdowns leave a dent in sales tax collections. The county is requiring non-union employees to take a 10-day furlough and is preparing for a possible 15 percent cut to the budget.

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