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Hamilton County frees up $7 million in CARES funding for COVID-19 expenses in schools

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 21:53:03-05

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to spend up to $7 million on ensuring local schools can cover their COVID-19 necessities: Personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, licenses for virtual teaching and more.

“The burden is real,” Oak Hills Local School District treasurer Steve Bain said Thursday afternoon.

His district is among the largest in Hamilton County, and its needs vary from grade to grade. Some students were learning in person on Thursday; others were learning remotely at home. Bain said that means Oak Hills has needed everything from masks to licenses to wages for substitute teachers since the pandemic began in March.

Districts in Hamilton County can apply for up to $50 per student to cover similar expenses, the board of commissioners said Thursday. These might include cleaning supplies, laptops or internet upgrades, among others.

“We’re just trying to help in that space in a way that we didn’t have the ability to do before then now,” Commissioner Denise Driehaus said. “Any schools can apply for these dollars. We have to have evidence that it’s being reimbursed for expenses related to COVID-19."

Oak Hills received $1.2 million in grant funding from the federal government earlier in the pandemic, but Bain described it as a Band-Aid on a gaping financial wound. The budget wasn’t in great shape before COVID-19 paralyzed the economy and forced teachers across the country to turn on a dime, he said.

Whatever money his district receives from Hamilton County won’t close the gap, but Bain’s still thankful it’s coming.

“At this point, any little bit helps,” he said.