By Staff Reporter: editor@news-herald.com

Lake County’s two state representatives have announced the latest round of CARES Act novel coronavirus relief funds being released by the Ohio Controlling Board.

Reps. Jamie Callender, R-Concord Township, and John Rogers, D-Mentor-on-the-Lake, said the funds approved support mental health services, senior centers, and the state’s unemployment system, among other things.

Funds include the approval of $81.5 million of federal CARES Act funds to the Ohio Department of Health to expand the state’s COVID-19 testing capabilities. The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Service will receive $45 million for the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act to promote job creation and $141.6 million to supplement the state’s unemployment program, according to Rogers’ office.

The controlling board also approved $15.2 million for senior and adult day care centers. According to Callender’s office, those are to meet certain safety standards, including reduced capacity and spacing, sanitation, signage and communication, facility standards, activity requirements and staffing protocols.

Locally, the Lake County General Health District Sept. 29 recommended that all of the county’s senior centers should be closed for the rest of 2020 and a reopening evaluation will be made early next year.

The health district stated continued closures will minimize risk, prevent morbidity and mortality, and allow the time necessary for centers to develop proper testing protocols and safety measures, train staff, and monitor the burden of COVID-19 on Lake County’s most at-risk residents.

Also approved was $10 million in COVID-19 mental health response to fund contracting and community disbursements in support of response efforts in three primary areas, according to Callender’s Office.

Those areas are: visibility and access for services; visibility and access for services, psychiatric inpatient and crisis care, and supports and capacity building for child welfare, first responders, suicide prevention and support for students and staff in primary, secondary and higher education.

According to Callender’s office, other mental health related funds include:

  • $5 million for higher education mental health in support of the “immediate behavioral health response and recovery needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic on Ohio college and university campuses to handle the rise in demand for mental health and counseling support services for students enrolled in Ohio’s public universities, community colleges, and non-profit higher education.”
  • $8.5 million through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief for higher education mental health for longer-term support and capacity development, connection to community resources, and implementation of behavioral health supports in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • $6 million through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief for K-12 mental health to support capacity development, connection to community resources, and implementation.
  • $1.5 million through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief for mental health coordination

Additionally, the controlling board approved the redirection of $750,000 in funds from Lorain to the Lake County Ohio Port and Economic Development Authority for initial work on a forthcoming waterway management facility on the Grand River in Fairport Harbor.

According to Rogers’ office, the project is intended to provide a long-term solution in support of efforts to improve Lake Erie’s water quality and allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the harbor, to meet the July 1 ban on open-lake disposal in the Ohio waters of Lake Erie made effective by Senate Bill 1. The funding is directed to the port authority through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Healthy Lake Erie Initiative.

“I am glad to see the State of Ohio funding both immediate and long-term priorities as part of its evolving response to our current crisis,” Rogers said in a statement. “As we begin our economic recovery from the global pandemic, it remains critical for the state to help our communities recover and move forward into the future, while helping to supplement the immediate public health and employment needs of our neighbors.”

Callender said in a statement the controlling board tool “proactive steps to ensuring that CARES Act funding is being efficiently approved to help our state and facilities properly handle the challenges they have all faced due to COVID-19.”