Hamilton County looks at strategies to combat budget shortfall due to COVID-19

Commissioner Driehaus: Layoffs are a last resort
downtown street scene 2020
Posted at 5:53 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 20:26:09-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

It’s too early to say if Hamilton County will have to lay off or furlough some of its employees, but it’s not off the table, Commissioner Denise Driehaus said Tuesday.

Local governments across the Tri-State are facing major budget gaps as COVID-19 brings many businesses to a halt.

The Hamilton County government is looking at its own possible $40 million to $70 million shortfall.

RELATED: City placing 1,700 employees on temporary leave

The county gets revenue from sales taxes, hotel taxes and parking, and all of those avenues are drying up, Driehaus said.

“Sales tax is going to be a huge hit,” Driehaus said. “Sales tax revenues are going to be so far down related to businesses closing, and people frankly aren’t buying things like they were before.”

Driehaus said they’ve been working on strategies for weeks and are enacting steps to deal with the projected shortfalls. Those steps include a county-wide hiring freeze, not accepting any new contracts and asking departments to come up with a plan for a 20% budget reduction.

The county has more than 4,400 employees, and Driehaus said layoffs and furloughs will be a last resort.

“We’re not quite there yet - we’re getting there quickly - but I think we have to look at all the options here,” Driehaus said.

Driehaus is working with County Administrator Jeff Alluto to tighten a strategy moving forward.

“We are going to need to adjust as this continues and that’s what we’re going to do,” Driehaus said. “I’m not making any promises by way of a timeline, but what I can tell you is, we’ve been working on it.”

Alluto will address the public during the county’s briefing Wednesday and is expected to give a clearer idea of what the budget impacts will look like.

“It’s not only about tomorrow, it’s how are we going to approach a situation where we have a significant reduction in revenue and how do we respond to that and keep basic services operating and do the best we can for our employees? So that’s the question,” Driehaus said.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.