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OHIO

Ohio

State Recovery Act Website: http://recovery.ohio.gov/

Ohio's state Recovery Act website scored 40 out of 100 possible points (ranking a tied 10th) on Good Jobs First's 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus. The state earned a higher than average score by describing broad and narrow program allocations and displaying their geographic distribution. Contractor information: none.

Ohio scored fewer points-38 out of 100 (ranking a tied 26th)-on its disclosure of information specifically about highway projects funded by the Recovery Act.  The state's Department of Transportation website describes highway projects and their costs and names contract awardees.  Contractor information: here.

For detailed scoring information, see the Ohio appendix of Show Us the Stimulus.

State Auditor Mary Taylor has commited to maintain accountability and transparency through disclosure of how Recovery Act funds are spent in communities.  The website is dependent upon county-initiated reporting of stimulus spending and lists allocations by department and program on a county-scale map.  It does not make available contractor information.

Coordination & Oversight

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Ohio Office of Management and Budget will have primary responsibility for collecting and presenting stimulus data from the various state agencies receiving funds.

The state has a comprehensive and unified plan for assigning, distributing and tracking recovery funds. Cognizant agencies for funding streams have been identified or assigned. Plans for programming and distribution of funds are developed by the agency responsible for the funding stream. Individuals (typically a cabinet director or assistant director) have been assigned responsibility for the funds within each agency.  Source: Ohio Office of Budget and Management, Federal Stimulus Guidance Document #1, March 17, 2009.

By now, comprehensive plans for tracking of funds through new codes in the state accounting system have been outlined.  Processes and procedures have been created and publicized.  The Ohio process for control and oversight was recently cited by Harvard's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

In January, as federal stimulus funds for transit, infrastructure and highway started to move and as the process for appropriation and distribution was being implemented through the state transportation budget, Gov. Ted Strickland appointed a temporary "infrastructure czar" to coordinate the processes.  Ronald B. Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, was chosen for this temporary and part-time volunteer position. In this role, Richard is tasked with working with the federal government, state legislators, and localities to prioritize infrastructure projects for stimulus funding. He has promised to do this work in a "collaborative, transparent manner." Richard will remain in his position with the Cleveland Foundation while serving as czar. He is a former U.S. diplomat and previously worked with the CIA's venture capital fund.

On April 16, as additional stimulus funds were moved to the sates and as programming for these funds got underway, the administration provided for additional broad and permanent oversight.  Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles announced that Winston M. Ford would serve as Deputy Inspector General for ARRA and would serve as Ohio's watchdog for federal stimulus spending. Ford, a lawyer, previously worked for the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Ohio Department of Health.

According to a mid-July review by the GAO, Ohio is in the process of refining its internal control processes to ensure that it can track and report on Recovery Act funding in accordance with federal and state laws. First, Ohio has developed a centralized Web-based hub to collect financial data, performance metrics, and other information on Recovery Act programs in the state. Second, the state is restructuring its internal control processes to ensure greater accountability for federal and state funds, including Recovery Act funds. Third, the state has a new State Audit Committee that among other things, is working to ensure consistent and speedy response to audit findings.

Policy Debates

Gov. Strickland has been criticized for his plans for using some $922 million the state will receive in stimulus funds for low-income and disabled students. Some residents and legislators believe the governor's plan would replace state funding for school districts with stimulus monies, even though the stimulus funds are supposed to be distributed in addition to state allocations. The state's Budget Director has denied that stimulus funds would be used to supplant state funds.

Democratic legislators revised Gov. Strickland's education plan by taking the stimulus money out of the state funding formula and adding it separately. Some Republican legislators have criticized this plan, saying that as a result school districts would receive less funding then they had in previous years.

An unrelated issue that has stirred criticism among some local officials and residents is the governor's plan to use $57 million in stimulus funds for transportation planning studies, rather than directing those funds to shovel ready projects.

Yet another debate revolves around Ohio's eligibility for stimulus funds from the Department of Energy. Some environmental groups are concerned that unless the state quickly updates its building codes to promote more energy efficiency, Ohio could lose some of the funding. Gov. Strickland, with agreement from the Department of Energy, says the state only needs a plan to enact the standards within the next ten years.

As of June 29, 2009, Ohio had drawn down over $711 million in increased FMAP grant awards, which is more than 85 percent of the over $832 million received for the first three quarters of federal fiscal year 2009. Ohio is using funds made available as a result of the increased FMAP to off-set the state’s budget deficit which allows the state to maintain Medicaid eligibility, attempt to avoid reductions in services, and to assist the state in responding to rapid program enrollment growth, which is currently almost 20,000 new enrollees per month.  Officials also noted that the increased FMAP has allowed the state to retain the small population expansions that the state legislature authorized in 2008. These targeted expansions include pregnant women, foster care children, and disabled individuals returning to work.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) apportioned $935.7 million in Recovery Act funds to Ohio. As of June 25, 2009, $384 million had been obligated for projects involving highway pavement, bridge, rail, and port improvements. For example, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) selected a project in Cuyahoga County to widen the ramp and replace the asphalt shoulders between two major interstate highways. Construction began on this project in early June 2009 and is expected to be completed by October 31, 2009.

In March 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) allocated about $266.8 million for Ohio's Weatherization Assistance Program for a 3-year period. Based on information available on June 18, 2009, DOE has awarded Ohio approximately $133.4 million and Ohio has obligated about $20.3 million of these funds. Ohio plans to begin production activities in July 2009 to weatherize approximately 32,000 dwelling units. The Ohio Weatherization Training Center will train and certify weatherization contractors and inspectors.

Last updated on: 15 October, 2009

Quick Facts

Population:
11,485,910

Median Household Income:
$46,597

Unemployment Rate:
10.8%

Poverty Rate:
13.1%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$8.2 billion

Resources

Policy Matters Ohio and Community Research Partners have been pushing state policymakers to steer recovery funds to those most in need, and to ensure that all spending is done with full transparency and accountability. The Executive Directors of the two organizations wrote an op-ed in Cleveland's The Plain Dealer titled "Stimulus plan will help Ohio's stressed families" that contains recommendations for effectively targeting stimulus funds. In July it issued a report called Stimulus for Ohio: U.S. Unemployment Compensation Aid.

Voices for Ohio's Children has issued a compilation of ARRA provisions relating to health and human services that includes Ohio contacts.

The Center for Community Solutions issued a press release describing how an increase in food stamp benefits and other benefits for working individuals and those who are unemployed will boost the economy. On May 22 the group published the first of a series of special issues of its State Budgeting Matters newsletter about the impact of ARRA on Ohio. The June issue of that newsletter deals with ARRA transparency issues.

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