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With new pandemic relief bill signed, how will Hamilton County divvy out the next round of support?

Posted at 5:10 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 12:23:41-05

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio — When President Donald Trump signed the $900 billion coronavirus relief package into law Sunday, it meant an extension of much-needed financial lifelines for counties all over the country, including here in Hamilton County.

But how much and who gets what are up to the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners.

For Jesse Roley, the first round of stimulus kept his small business, RoSho Awards and Graphics in Bond Hill, afloat. Roley paid the storefront's utility bills using Hamilton County small business relief funding.

Jesse Roley, owner of RoSho Awards and Graphic in Bond Hill, Cincinnati, spoke with WCPO Dec. 30, 2020, about the next round of coronavirus relief.

"The critical thing was when that phone rang, somebody was there to answer," Roley said. "And they weren't answering saying, 'We're closed due to COVID.' We were saying, 'How can I help you?'"

Denise Driehaus, president of the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners, said they will be targeting varying needs across the county, from small businesses to residents struggling due to lost wages, and especially those who might not have access to direct funding from state and federal sources.

"We're going to try to hit those in this community who are struggling and not able to access some of the dollars and relief from the other levels of government," she said.

In July, the owners of Hi-Tech Audio Video Solutions in St. Bernard told us they lost 90% of their income. Unemployment support was and still is their lifeline six months later.

"That's huge for us. Without that money, no rent," said owner, Marie Grooms.

For residents facing eviction, like Courtney Smith of Madisonville, every little bit could help, regardless of the source.

Courtney Smith, 43 of Madisonville, said she wasn't sure where to turn as she faces eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When WCPO first spoke with her earlier this month, her disability made it impossible to work for the former dancer and mother of four. As a result, she was calling area churches in search of assistance paying rent.

"I'm always worried about what we're going to do next," Smith said Dec. 2. "I don't want to be homeless and disabled. Then where would I go?"

READ MORE: Despite eviction moratorium, Black moms still especially vulnerable

Also competing for funding are medical services.

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman said part of the next round of relief funding could help hire nurses and pay for testing in the coming months.

"So if you need access to testing, there are lots of opportunities throughout Hamilton County, and there is pretty much no wait to get tested, and test results are coming back in less than 48 hours," he said.

Roley said he was optimistic enough to hire a new employee in October, but now he's wondering what's next.

"So now it's just a matter of, if another stimulus comes around being able to use that stimulus to generate more business to keep everybody paid," he said.

Driehaus said the county commissioners are still receiving guidance on spending limits that come attached to the next round of relief funds, and they still have a few months to make disbursement decisions.