Millions coming to the Valley, some say it won't help counties f - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Millions coming to the Valley, some say it won't help counties for long

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Communities across the state of Ohio will receive millions of dollars that could help them transition in a budget shortfall, but some officials in parts of the Valley say it's not nearly as helpful as some might think.  

Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck says the funding is "a band-aid and a small one at that". 

The tri-county area alone will receive more than $14 million in transitional aid- Mahoning County will get  $5.3 million, Columbiana County will receive $4.9 million, and Trumbull County will take home $3.9 million dollars. 

The money will be disbursed in two lump sum checks; one will be sent out at the end of October, and the other will arrive sometime in January. 

Halleck tells 21 News that the funding only accounts for the next 18 months or so of lost revenue, but after that, counties are left on their own to find ways to make up for millions of dollars. 

The funding was accounted for in Governor John Kasich's 2017 budget in order to help counties cope with the loss of Medicaid sales taxes.

Since 2009 Ohio, like several other states imposed a sales tax on Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) based on the Medicaid payments the MCOs receive from the state. 

But in 2016, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruled that the taxes were discriminatory against Medicaid Care Centers, and would have to be phased out by June 30th, 2017. 

In July of 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are quoted as saying, "Taxing a subset of health care providers at the same rate as a statewide sales tax" is subject to the definition of a health care related tax and not permissible."

As a result, county commissioners across the state were told to prepare for millions of dollars in lost revenue. 

According to previous interviews with 21 News, Mahoning County stood to lose $4.4 million dollars a year, Trumbull County expected a loss of $2.7-million dollars a year, and Columbiana County anticipated an annual shortfall of more than $2.3 million dollars a year. 

When Governor Kasich's budget was passed earlier this year, state lawmakers approved a provision that would allocate more than $150 million dollars in "transitional aid". 

The money was earmarked to be doled out to counties across the state- based on how much they relied on the Medicaid sales tax. Its purpose is to help counties make up the shortfall from the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year and the 2018 fiscal year. 

The aid packages for Mahoning ($5.3 million), Columbiana ($4.9 million), and Trumbull ($3.9 million) counties will only help for a short period. 

Halleck argues that for some counties, the loss of the Medicaid sales tax hurts more than others. 

He says that for instance, in a county where the annual budget is more than one billion dollars $15 million in Medicaid sales tax is a drop in the bucket. But for more rural counties, Like Columbiana that depend on sales taxes to run their general fund, the loss of several million dollars is more widely felt. 

In Mahoning County, officials say they're hoping to use as little of the transitional aid as possible, with the hopes that a new state administration will have a longer-term solution. 

In Mahoning County, the Medicaid sales tax accounted for approximately 10% of their sales tax. 

The office of county commissioners says the aid will provide them some time to figure out how to come up with the money, or which departments will face cuts. 

Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka says that the relief, even if it is temporary, is good news. According to Polivka, the county is looking at ways to save money down the road such as not filling certain positions and looking into green energy solutions that would lower electricity costs. 

The Western Reserve Transit Authority will also receive just over $1 million. 

On the statewide level, Gov. Kasich received approval to implement a replacement plan. The new plan will allow the state government to recoup lost revenue through a broad-based plan that charges Medicaid MCO's $26-$56 per member per month but only charges non-Medicaid MCO's on $1 or $2 per member per month.

According to the Governor's office, the MCO's will be reimbursed through Ohio Medicaid and CMS. 

Unfortunately, that replacement plan does not generate funding for local taxing authorities, counties, or transit authorities. 

State legislators have not yet voted on a plan that would provide an additional $49 million to counties throughout the state. 
 

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