COVID-19 State Updates: April 9
On Wednesday, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton reported totals of 193 deaths and 5,148 cases since the beginning of the pandemic; cases have resulted in 1,495 hospitalizations and 472 intensive care unit admissions.
The Ohio Department of Health offered a common COVID-19 “Myths Versus Facts” document that can be found here.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors will be asked to send $1.6 billion in dividends to employers this spring; frequently asked questions on the BWC proposal can be found here and additional information is here. For other questions about COVID-19 related to BWC, email BWCCOVID19@bwc.state.oh.us.
“This dividend equals approximately 100 percent of the premiums employers paid in policy year 2018," said Governor Mike DeWine.
If the proposal is approved, approximately $1.4 billion will go to private employers while roughly $200 million will go to local government taxing districts, with checks being sent later in April.
Lt. Governor Husted announced the creation of the Office of Small Business Relief to coordinate efforts to identify and provide support for Ohio’s nearly 950,000 small businesses. This office will be housed within the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA). You can visit the Office of Small Business Relief website HERE. The Office will initially focus on three key areas:
It will serve as the state’s designated agency for administering federal recovery funds awarded to Ohio for small business support and recovery.
It will work with federal, state, and local partners to evaluate and determine possible regulatory reforms that encourage employment and job creation.
It will coordinate efforts of the Ohio Small Business Development Centers and Minority Business Assistance Centers at local levels.
Governor DeWine announced restaurants and other Ohio liquor-permit holders can now sell limited liquor and mixed drinks for carryout and delivery, under a new emergency rule. Read that signed Executive Order here.
In order to assist JobsOhio’s existing client companies that are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, JobsOhio is offering enhancements to some of the JobsOhio incentive programs. To read more about this program and others, created to minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 on Ohio businesses, please click here.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced Ohioans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who did not already receive the maximum monthly allotment for their household size in March, will be issued an additional payment beginning this week. SNAP-eligible households will also be able to pick up a pre-packaged box of food at their local foodbank. This came after Ohio received federal approval to waive certain administrative verifications.
Despite receiving a high number of applications from agricultural producers seeking to participate in the H2Ohio program, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda said the initiative will undergo a budgetary “reevaluation” along with other agency programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a reminder, all public water systems in the state are prohibited from disconnecting customers due to non-payment of fees and charges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency order can be found here.
State coronavirus omnibus legislation authorized the Ohio EPA director to issue such an order for the duration of the coronavirus state of emergency declared by Governor DeWine, but not beyond December 1, 2020.
Additionally, all public water systems that disconnected customers due non-payment on or after January 1, 2020 are required to restore drinking water service “as expeditiously as possible” without charging a reconnection fee.
According a fiscal analysis from the Legislative Services Commission this could lead to revenue losses for water systems.
The state legislation also allows the Ohio Public Works Commission, Ohio Water Development Authority and Ohio EPA to waive fees and other specified requirements for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
The chairman of an Ohio House of Representatives Economic Recovery Task Force told members that he hopes to craft a framework for recommendations by the end of next week; their next meeting will be on Monday.
On Tuesday, Speaker Larry Householder stated he does not believe Governor DeWine’s agency spending cuts alone will close Ohio’s budget gap.
“I don’t know how much money that will generate. I don’t think it will get anywhere close to what we’ll need to cut,” he said.
The Speaker went on to say the state won’t be able to completely cut its way out of the crisis, since its three largest expenditures are Medicaid — the state and federally run health-care program for the poor and disabled — schools and prisons.
Householder said borrowing for public-works projects could be a tool used to help restart Ohio’s economy.
One option is to use the Budget Stabilization Fund, which currently has about $2.7 billion. Householder said lawmakers already planned for such a contingency, having added language to the coronavirus response legislation, which allows the DeWine administration to use the Budget Stabilization Fund to cover any shortfall at the end of the fiscal year with a vote of the Controlling Board. The language also requires the vote to include approval from two members of the Senate and two members of the House.
On a separate occasion, on Wednesday, the Speaker’s spokesperson said, “tax increases are not being considered as a response to COVID-19.”
New Ohio Senate legislation would give Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost the power to set quantity limits on purchases of in-demand items and to initiate legal action against price gougers during the ongoing coronavirus emergency.