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Cuyahoga County Lobbying Feds For More Flexibility With CARES Dollars

“We will manage this crisis and will do it carefully and wisely,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said at a county health briefing Friday. [Facebook]
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish at a county health briefing Friday

Cuyahoga County is facing a $76 million budget shortfall because of the coronavirus, but County Executive Armond Budish said Friday he’s asking for fewer restrictions on the $215 million coming in from the federal CARES Act.

“That money is very, very limited in how it can be used,” Budish said. “It can only be used to pay COVID-related expenses, but cannot be used to support our budget or pay for budgeted expenses.

“We’ve been actively and aggressively lobbying our federal elected officials to enact legislation that would give us more flexibility with respect to the CARES Act money,” he said.

So far, the effort has been unsuccessful, but the county will continue to push for different results, according to the county executive.

“That’s why I’ve had to make some very, very difficult decisions,” Budish said. “We must be good and responsible stewards of the taxpayer’s dollars.

Some have urged the county government to wait to see if more federal money comes through before instituting two-week furloughs, hiring freezes and requesting 15 percent budget cut proposalsfrom every department, Budish said.

“I can tell you that for every month that we wait, if the federal government does not give us more money or more flexibility, it will just get harder and harder to fill our growing budget hole,” he said. “I want to assure you that we’ll continue to provide necessary services to those most in need as we’ve always done. We will manage this crisis and will do it carefully and wisely.”

Furloughs will be reflected in paychecks from May 15 through February of 2021, county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan told ideastream earlier this week, so there is less of an immediate impact. Madigan said it was unclear if any county employees have taken furloughs yet, but the adjustment is to be completed one full week at a time.

Of Cuyahoga County's 1,678 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, 507 have recovered and 86 have died.

Those numbers do not include the City of Cleveland, which reports its statistics separately and had 46 new cases Thursday night. Cleveland has reported a total of 693 confirmed cases and 33 deaths.

On April 29, Mayor Frank Jackson signed an order extending the City’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency through May 31.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.