Mahoning County held its weekly commissioner's meeting Thursday, discussing how to spend taxpayer money aimed at helping recover from the pandemic.

After that meeting, commissioners also heard from local business groups and organizations on how they believe a portion of the $44-million from the American Rescue Plan should be spent through their organization. 

However, the county is yet to hold a hearing to get input from the general public, as Trumbull County and the city of Youngstown have done.

"Why go to the public before we really understand what we're allowed to do with our money?" County Commissioner Rimedio Righetti said,  "And we have three years to spend it, and then when they tell us they want something and we can't help them, that's not fair to them."

Commissioners said listening to pitches from local entities such as the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber and Valley Economic Development will help them understand the needs of the community while they're still getting caught up on the criteria for spending.

"We are listening publically to what they want us to consider funding," County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said, "It makes things a little more understandable for us a board, where these dollars should go, and we want to be vigilant and not rush to judgement."

Commissioners said future public input meetings are not out of the question, but as of now, they stand by their decision.

"We're not saying we're never going to go to the public," Rimedio Righetti said, "What we did say is we need to undersand what the needs are from the inside out. We need to understand that ourselves."

County officials added they don't need public input to make decisions on how to spend the money they've already doled out and pointed towards the funds spent thus far going towards prioritized issues, such as hunger.

Commissioners said the more complicated projects are going to require more homework, which is why they wanted to hear from community partners who deal with a lot of the population.

"If we hold a public hearing... that's yet to be debated," Traficanti said, "I just want to make sure when we do, this has a lifelong consequence... that we're not just putting money on the short end of it and it dies long term."

Commissioners said they would possibly consider public hearings in the future, but as of now, they're making no changes to their regular meeting schedule.