April 22, 2020 State of Ohio Update: COVID-19

Apr 22, 2020Advocacy

Current Statistics: As of April 20, Ohio had 12,516 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 403 probable cases for a total of 12,919.   2,653 Ohioans were hospitalized, with 798 in ICU.   87 counties have confirmed cases, with Vinton County being the only county with no confirmed cases.  There have been 491 confirmed deaths from the virus and 18 probable deaths, for a total of 509.

Administration’s Recent Actions:   Governor DeWine and his administration have taken many actions to decrease community spread of COVID-19.  The latest include:

On April 20, the Ohio Department of Health’s Director’s Order to close K-12 schools was extended for the rest of the school year.  The Governor advised that no decision has been made yet about whether schools will reopen this fall, including colleges.

On April 20, the Governor also announced that he has formed a new Minority Health Strike Force to address the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on the state’s minorities.  A list of those on the Strike Force is at: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/OHOOD/2020/04/20/file_attachments/1431608/COVID-19%20Minority%20Health%20Strike%20Force%204.20.20%20.pdf

On April 16, the Governor announced that the state is putting plans together to gradually reopen businesses and address the restrictions of the Ohio Department of Health’s “Stay at Home Order” issued in March.  Reopening will be gradual, monitored and address the requirements for social distancing and sanitation.  A continued lack of testing presents challenges to reopening.

State Business Assistance: The Governor and Lt. Governor Husted’s actions to help businesses include:

Economic Advisory Board: This newly-created board is advising the Administration regarding business recovery and includes:

Patrick Bowe, President and CEO, The Andersons, Inc.

Mike Brooks, Chairman, Rocky Boots

Brian Burgett, President, Kokosing Construction Company

Toby Cosgrove, Executive Advisor, Cleveland Clinic

Sam Covelli, Chief Executive Officer, Covelli Enterprises

Paul Dolan, Owner, Cleveland Indians

Jacqueline Gamblin, Founder and CEO, JYG Innovations

Mike Hennigan, President and CEO, Marathon Petroleum Corporation

Steven Johnston, President and CEO, Cincinnati Financial Corporation

Cameron Mitchell, Founder and CEO, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

Kelly Moore, Owner, GKP Auto Parts

Loretta Mester, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Dan Pritchard, President and CEO, A.J. Rose Manufacturing Company

Dwight Smith, Chairman and CEO, Sophisticated Systems

Frank Sullivan, Chairman and CEO, RPM International

Mark Smucker, President and CEO, The J.M. Smucker Company

David Taylor, Chairman, President and CEO, Procter and Gamble

Vanessa Whiting, President, A.E.S. Management Group

Resources for Employers and Employees, found at: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/employers-and-employees/

Insurance Premium Deferral: The Ohio Department of Insurance has ordered all insurers in Ohio to allow employers to offer employees a grace period for insurance premiums, which must provide the option of deferring premium payments interest free for up to 60 calendar days from the original premium due date. Health insurers must allow employers to continue covering employees even if the employees would otherwise become ineligible for insurance because of a decrease in work hours. More information is at: https://iop-odi-content.s3.amazonaws.com/static/Legal/Bulletins/Documents/2020-07.pdf

Workers Compensation Insurance Premium Deferral:  Employers will be permitted to defer Workers Compensation insurance premium installment payments for March, April, and May until June 1. For information visit the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation info.bwc.ohio.gov.

COVID-19 Jobs Opening Website: The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation has developed a website specifically geared toward matching essential businesses with Ohioans who are able and willing to work as an essential employee during the COVID-19 crisis. Both essential businesses and current job seekers can visit www.Coronavirus.Ohio.Gov/JobSearch   to post and search.

Office of Small Business Relief: This new resource to help Ohio’s small businesses through the crisis is housed in the Developmental Services Agency.  The Office will serve as the state’s designated agency for administrating federal recovery funds awarded to Ohio for small business support and recovery; work with federal, state, and local partners to evaluate and determine possible regulatory reforms that encourage employment and job creation; and coordinate efforts of Ohio’s Small Business Development Centers and Minority Business Assistance Centers.  Its website is at: https://businesshelp.ohio.gov/

Ohio Manufacturing Alliance: This is a collaborative public-private partnership formed to coordinate efforts to provide healthcare workers and first responders with personal protective equipment (PPE). Manufacturers that can help should visit RepurposingProject.com for more information.

JobsOhio Assistance:   JobsOhio has created a special website for its COVID-19 resources, at: https://www.jobsohio.com/ohio-safe-ohio-working/.  The website contains links to Economic Impact Reports posted 3 times per week.  In addition to its existing resources, JobsOhio has created:

Ohio PPE Database:  JobsOhio has partnered with the Ohio Manufacturers Association, Governor DeWine’s Administration and with its Regional Network partners to assemble lists of manufacturers, distributors and potential contract manufacturers to connect Ohio companies wishing to collaborate in increasing the supply of in-demand medical personal protective equipment.

JobsOhio Innovation Fund: This is a new program to provide Ohio’s entrepreneurial businesses with resources to soften the near-term impact of COVID-19 at this critical time. JobsOhio will allocate up to $50 million total toward this fund, and partner with Ohio’s current network of venture investors to provide loans into highest priority innovative investor-backed companies during this time.  For further information on the program, including company eligibility, go to https://www.jobsohio.com/ohios-innovation-economy/ or email innovationfund@jobsohio.com.

JobsOhio Rapid Development Initiative:   In order to continue to be a value-add partner, JobsOhio has enhanced its incentive programs for existing JobsOhio client companies to allow for maximum flexibility and support during this unprecedented time. These adjustments will help address unexpected pandemic-related business costs, improve access to funds and an immediate limited waiver of compliance. JobsOhio is in the process of reaching out to eligible companies.

Workforce Retention Loan Program:  JobsOhio rapidly established the Workforce Retention Loan Program to provide qualifying JobsOhio client companies with financial support to help them to maintain employment levels during the COVID19 outbreak. Only JobsOhio existing client companies meeting certain defined criteria are eligible to participate, and JobsOhio has already notified the qualifying companies. The financing offered is an unsecured, forgivable, interest free loan allowing monthly draws to assist with payroll expense in support of employee retention. If the participating company retains its employees over a six-month period, the loan is eligible for forgiveness.  Submissions for the Workforce Retention Loan Program have now closed.

Investment in Appalachian Growth Capital: On March 31, JobsOhio announced that it made a $2 million investment in Appalachian Growth Capital, LLC (AGC). The investment was made as a long-term, low interest loan to AGC that will allow AGC to help more small companies in Appalachian Ohio with financing during this economically difficult time.

Six-Month Deferral of Payment on JobsOhio Loans:  In an effort to support its borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis, JobsOhio will be offering a 6-month deferral of payment of loans (no principal and no interest) for the nearly 50 companies that have executed loan agreements with JobsOhio.


General Assembly:

House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force:  On April 6, this 24-member panel appointed by Speaker Larry Householder began meetings with the goal of facilitating the restoration of Ohio’s economy.  Since then, they have taken testimony from bankers, small business owners, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and others.  Suggestions for economic development policies to facilitate recovery were submitted by the OEDA.  The Task Force intends to compile its findings, share them with the Governor’s Administration and incorporate them into proposed legislation.  Members include Chair Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason), Rep. Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester), Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township), Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Zanesville), Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport), Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City), Rep. George Lang (R-West Chester), Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Violet Twp.), Rep. Jena Powell (R-Laura), Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva), Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron), and Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana).  Minority members include Task Force Vice-Chair Terrence  Upchurch (D-Cleveland), Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron), Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus), Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park), Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon), and Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton).

Legislation: The full Legislature has not been meeting regularly, however they have shown great interest in helping Ohioans through the crisis, introducing over 50 COVID-19 related bills.  Those relevant to economic development or businesses include:


House Bills:

HB 197 TAX REVISIONS (POWELL, J., MERRIN, D.) This bill started as the “Tax Code Streamlining and Correction Ac to make technical and corrective changes to the state’s tax laws, but it was used by lawmakers in March to make changes necessitated by the COVID-19 emergency.  The bill was signed by Governor DeWine March 27 and effective that day.  The main emergency changes made included:

Ohio’s Primary Election:

Extends absent voting in the March 17, 2020, primary election through April 28;

Allows an elector who has not already cast a ballot in the election, and who was registered to vote in Ohio as of the February 18, 2020, deadline, to cast absent voter’s ballots in the election through 7:30 p.m. on April 28;

Requires ballots already cast in the election before or after the March 27, 2020, also to be counted after 7:30 p.m. on April 28;

Requires the Secretary of State to mail a postcard to each elector in Ohio with information about voting;

Requires generally that an elector apply for absent voter’s ballots by mail to the board of elections by noon on April 25;

Permits an elector instead to cast ballots in person at the office of the board on April 28 by 7:30 p.m. if (1) the elector has a disability and wishes to use an accessible voting machine, or (2) the elector is unable to receive mail;

Requires the board to place a secure receptacle outside the board’s office for the return of absent voter’s ballots;

Specifies that for the purpose of contribution limits that apply during a primary election period, the primary election period ended on March 17, and

Extends the filing deadline for candidates and political entities to file their post-primary campaign finance statements to 4:00 p.m. on June 5, 2020.

Unemployment compensation:

Specifies that during the period of emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, dated March 9, 2020, but not beyond December 1, 2020, an individual is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if the individual is unable to work because of an order issued by the individual’s employer, the Governor, or a state or local health authority;

Charges benefits paid to an individual who is unable to work due to an order described above to the state’s mutualized account, unless the benefits are chargeable to a reimbursing employer;

Suspends, during the period described above, a requirement that an individual serve a waiting period before receiving unemployment benefits, and

Allows the Director of Job and Family Services, during the period described above, to waive the requirement that a person actively search for suitable work as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits.

K-12 Education/EdChoice Vouchers:

Exempts all public and chartered nonpublic schools from administering the state achievement assessments for the 2019-2020 school year;

Prohibits the Department of Education from publishing and issuing ratings for overall grades, components, and individual measures on the state report cards and submitting preliminary data for report cards for school districts and buildings;

Prohibits the Department of Education from generally awarding first-time, performance-based Educational Choice (Ed Choice) scholarships for the 2020-2021 school year to students who were newly eligible for those scholarships for that year;

Requires the Department to continue awarding performance-based scholarships to students who received them in the prior year and to award first-time scholarships to students with siblings who received those scholarships in the 2019-2020 school year, if the students also meet other eligibility criteria; students who were eligible for those scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year, regardless of whether they received them, and who remain eligible for the 2020¬2021 school year; and students, including those entering kindergarten or high school or recently relocated, who did not receive a scholarship in the 2019-2020 school year, but are enrolled or would be newly enrolled for the 2020-2021 school year in a district school building that meets certain conditions, and

Specifies that performance-based scholarships for the 2020-2021 school year will be financed through deductions from the students’ resident school districts.

Public Meetings and Hearings: The bill establishes a policy for electronic public meetings and hearings for use during the period of emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D only, but not beyond December 1, 2020.  The policy requires, among other things, that:

Public bodies must provide notice of the meetings or hearings to the public, the media that have requested notification, and the parties required to be notified of a hearing, at least 24 hours in advance, by reasonable methods by which any person may determine the time, location, and the manner by which the meeting or hearing will be conducted, except in an emergency requiring immediate official action. In the event of an emergency, the public body must immediately notify the news media that have requested notification of a meeting, and any parties required to be notified of a hearing, of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting or hearing, and

The public body must provide the public access to a meeting held under this provision, or to any hearing that is held under this provision if the public would otherwise be entitled to attend. The access must be commensurate with the method in which the meeting or hearing is being conducted. The act lists examples such as live-streaming on the internet, local radio, television, cable, or public access channels, call-in information for a teleconference, or any other similar electronic technology. The public body must ensure that the public can observe and hear each member’s discussions and deliberations, whether the member is participating in person or electronically.

HB 562 PROHIBIT EVICTION, FORECLOSURE DURING COVID-19 (LELAND D, CROSSMAN J) This bill would prohibit foreclosure activity and the eviction of residential and commercial tenants during the state of emergency declared regarding COVID-19 and would refer such proceedings caused by the state of emergency to mediation.

HB 564 PREVENT UTILITY DISRUPTION DURING COVID-19 (LELAND D) This bill would prevent the disruption of utility service during the state of emergency declared regarding COVID-19.

HB 565 EXTEND INCOME TAX FILING DEADLINE (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would  extend the filing and payment dates for state, municipal, and school district income taxes by the same period as any federal income tax extension granted in response to the COVID-19 disease outbreak.

HB 566 INCREASE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND DISTRIBUTION (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would increase the percentage of revenue to the General Revenue Fund distributed to the Local Government Fund.

HB 567 PARTIALLY REFUNDABLE INCOME TAX CREDIT (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would temporarily authorize a partially refundable earned income tax credit.

HB 570 OPEN BIDDING DURING COVID-19 (BOGGS K) This bill would allow a county to purchase public health-related items and communication equipment without competitive bidding, solicit bids electronically, and open bids during a meeting held electronically during the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020.

HB 572 STATE OFFICES – FEE, PENALTY WAIVERS (SOBECKI L) This bill would allow the Ohio Public Works Commission, the Ohio Water Development Authority, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, county auditors, and county recorders, during the state of emergency due to COVID-19, to waive certain penalties and late fees, suspend certain reporting requirements, and waive electronic recording fees.

HB 575 COUNTY DROP BOX PAYMENTS (MILLER J) This bill would permit counties to receive payments by a drop box instead of in-person for the duration of the Governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

HB 576 SUSPEND HOMESTEAD INTEREST PENALTY, FORECLOSURE (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would temporarily abate the charging of interest and penalties against tax-delinquent homesteads and suspend tax foreclosure proceedings and tax certificate sales regarding such homesteads.

HB 577 DISSOLVE ACADEMIC DISTRESS COMMISSIONS (MILLER J, LIGHTBODY M) This bill would dissolve existing academic distress commissions, place a moratorium on the creation of academic distress commissions and establish the School Transformation Board.

HB 578 HOMELESS SHELTERS, RENT ASSISTANCE (SMITH K) This bill would make an appropriation to support homeless shelters in the state and provide emergency rental assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB 579 REQUIRE INSURERS COVER COVID-19 TREATMENT (RUSSO A) This bill would require health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing and treatment and prohibit balance billing.

HB 580 REQUIRE INSURERS COVER TELEMEDICINE (LISTON B, PATTON T) This bill would require health plan issuers to cover telemedicine services during a state of emergency.

HB 584 WORK SEARCH REQUIREMENTS – COVID-19 (CRAWLEY E, LELAND D) This bill would temporarily change eligibility and work search requirements under the Unemployment Compensation Law.

HB 588 PUBLIC ASSISTANT PROGRAMS – COVID-19 (RUSSO A, SOBECKI L) This bill would  delay eligibility redeterminations for certain public assistance programs and temporarily modify income eligibility requirements for certain public assistance programs.

HB 589 FINANCIAL DAMAGE INSURANCE COVERAGE – COVID-19 (CROSSMAN J, ROGERS J) This bill would require insurers offering business interruption insurance to cover losses attributable to viruses and pandemics.

HB 590 PRICE GOUGING PROHIBITION (CROSSMAN J, ROGERS J) This bill would prohibit price gouging to protect consumers during the COVID-19 emergency.

HB 591 SUSPEND EMPLOYER MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX (ROGERS J) This bill would suspend some employer municipal income tax withholding requirements during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

HB 593 REQUIRED PAID LEAVE – COVID-19 (BOYD J, BOGGS K) This bill would require paid leave for an employee who is unable to work due to quarantine or mandatory isolation and create a grant program to compensate contract workers who cannot perform services during public health emergencies.

HB 594 DEFERRED RETIREMENT – EMERGENCY WORKERS (CROSSMAN J, BALDRIDGE B) In regards to the re-employment of a retiring police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker during a state of emergency, this bill allow a deferred retirement option plan participant to work past the participant’s employment end date during a state of emergency, and to declare an emergency.

HB 596 DEBT COLLECTION POSTPONEMENT  (WEST T) This bill would halt the collection of debts and prohibit the imposition of additional interest, penalties and fees during the COVID-109 emergency.

HB 597 STUDENT LOAN DEBT COLLECTION POSTPONEMENT (INGRAM C, MIRANDA J) This bill would halt the collection of all debt owed to any state institution of higher education or hospital operated by a state institution of higher education and freeze the accrual of interest and collection of fees on all outstanding debt owed to those entities.

HB 603 STUDENT LOAN INTEREST (Ingram, C., Lightbody, M.)  Introduced April 6, this bill would require the Chancellor of Higher Education to waive interest rates and suspend payments on state student loan programs for up to sixty days, to require the Chancellor to conduct a study to assist institutions of higher education and students during the COVID-19 outbreak.

HB 605 WORKERS’ COMPENSATION (Kelly, B., Patton, T.)  Introduced April 10, this bill would make COVID-19 contracted by an employee of a retail food establishment or food processing establishment an occupational disease under the Workers’ Compensation Law under certain circumstances.

HB 606 CIVIL IMMUNITY (Grendell, D.)  Introduced April 10, this bill would grant civil immunity to a person who provides services for essential businesses and operations for injury, death, or loss that was caused by the transmission of COVID-19 during the period of emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020.

HB 609 TAX AMNESTY (West, T.)  Introduced April 16, this bill require the Tax Commissioner to administer a temporary amnesty program from August 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, with respect to delinquent state taxes and fees.


Senate Bills:

SB 297 PROHIBIT FORECLOSURES, EVICTIONS (ANTONIO N, CRAIG H) This bill (a companion bill to HB 562) would  prohibit foreclosure activity and the eviction of residential and commercial tenants during the state of emergency declared regarding COVID-19 and refer such proceedings caused by the state of emergency to mediation.

SB 299  REQUIRE PAID LEAVE (CRAIG H) This bill, a companion to HB 593, would require paid leave for an employee who is unable to work due to quarantine or mandatory isolation and create a grant program to compensate contract workers who cannot perform services during public health emergencies.

SB 301 PRICE GOUGING (MANNING, N., WILLIAMS, S.) This bill, a companion to HB 590 would make changes to the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act to protect consumers during the COVID-19 emergency.

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