OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top six things you need to know from this past week:
· This week, the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee passed Sub. HB 157 out of committee. Before the bill was voted out, a second substitute bill was adopted, making several substantial changes to the bill. You can find the substitute bill language HERE and a comparison document HERE. While the substitute bill would mandate that employers verify that a taxpayer was not performing work at the principle place of work for a taxpayer’s refund request, the substitute bill still allows for taxpayers to request refunds back to January 1, 2021, which is prior to the expiration of the Governor’s declaration of emergency and therefore a retroactive refund for revenues protected under Sec. 29 of HB 197. The bill will now head to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. Read more in the article below.
· We would like to thank the National League of Cities (NLC) Federal Advocacy Team for presenting on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) guidelines for Ohio municipalities this week. The presentation covered eligible expenditures for the funds, reporting requirements and other critical information. For those who missed the presentation or would like to access the information again, you can find the recording of the presentation in the member section on our website HERE.
· The League has launched an ARPA informational section for members on our website. This page contains up-to-date information from the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Treasury regarding how municipalities can request ARPA funds, allocation amounts for Metro cities, and the Final Interim Rule on how cities and villages can use ARPA funds. The webpage also has presentations and recordings from NLC Federal Advocacy team presentations. You can access this critical information HERE.
· Budget Watch: This week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on local government issues in Sub. HB 110, the state operating budget bill. The League offered testimony on the issues in the budget affecting municipalities. You can read the testimony in full HERE and you can access the League’s full list of municipal issues included in the budget HERE.
· League members are encouraged to participate in the upcoming Census of Governments (CoG), which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every five years. The CoG collects data on the size, structure, and finances of all state and local governments. The data collected by the CoG provides policy analysts, researchers and the general public with a more complete picture of the public sector and assists in addressing the issues that concern state and local governments through national economic and public policy. To learn more about the CoG and how to participate, click HERE.
· This week, Governor DeWine signed HB 2, which create the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program within the Ohio Development Services Agency for broadband expansion throughout the state. The bill allocates $20 million for FY21 to the program. The Governor also signed two COVID1-9 relief bills that allocate a total of $682 million in grants for businesses, bars, restaurants and lodging businesses. These bills, SB 108 and SB 109, are the two final pieces of legislation that distribute over $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
BILL IMPACTING TEMPORARY MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX WITHHOLDING PROVISION VOTED OUT OF HOUSE COMMITTEE
This week, the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee passed Sub. HB 157 out of committee sending the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. Before passing the bill out of committee, another substitute bill was adopted that made changes to the language in the bill dealing with allowing taxpayers to file for refunds.
Sub. HB 157 would still extend the sunsetting of Sec. 29 of HB 197 until Dec. 31, 2021, which is supported by the League.
However, Sub. HB 157 also contains language stating that Sec. 29 of HB 197 applied only to withholding and not liability, thus mandating that municipalities must comply with requests for refunds from taxpayers who worked from home in a local jurisdiction other than where their principle place of work is located due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This langue attempts to re-write the original intent of Sec. 29 of HB 197 to protect municipalities, which have made budgetary decisions that are dependent upon the revenue stability granted to them by this temporary provision. The new substitute bill adopted by the committee makes several adjustments to these provisions.
The new substitute bill makes the following changes:
· Narrows that provision by stating that Sec. 29 of HB 197 applies only to tax withholding obligations, and not to an employee’s tax liability, beginning January 1, 2021, but that the bill’s changes to the rule are not intended to affect the interpretation of the rule as it applies to taxes withheld in 2020. This means that taxpayers can file for refunds dating back to the January 1 of 2021, not January 1 of 2020.
· While the substitute bill language would allow taxpayers to request refunds for tax year 2021, rather than back to tax year 2020, other language in the substitute bill would allow an employer to change the “principal place of work” designation at their discretion for any employee they choose back until March 9, 2020. This could create additional request for any employee receiving this designation back to tax year 2020.
· Retains the requirement that the employee be working at another location due to the COVID-19 emergency but removes the requirement that the employer has required the employee to do so.
· If an employee requests a refund of municipal income taxes withheld due to Sec. 29 of HB 197, the municipal tax administrator may not require any documentation from the employer to process the request other than a statement verifying that the employer has not refunded any withholding to the employee and the number of days the employee worked at their employee’s principal place of work.
· Sub. HB 157 originally prohibited a municipal tax administrator from assessing tax, penalty, or interest for the failure to withhold municipal income tax from an employee’s wages during the period of time Sec. 29 of HB 197 is in effect, provided the employer withheld tax from those wages pursuant to that temporary rule. The new substitute bill expands this “safe harbor” by also prohibiting assessments against an employer that withholds taxes while Sec. 29 is in effect to the employee’s principal place of work, regardless of whether the employee reported to another location to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic or on the order of the employer, as otherwise required to comply with the temporary withholding rule.
The language from the latest substitute bill does not change the fact that municipalities are protected under Sec. 29 from HB 197, which made wages taxable to the principle place of work even if the taxpayer was working in another local jurisdiction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to object to retroactive changes to Sec. 29 of HB 197 and we are continuing to advocate for the language extending the termination of the temporary withholding policy. It is our request that the legislature remove all other language from Sub. HB 157 and considered in separate legislation and that the issue of refunds be left to the courts to decide.
We encourage municipal leaders to contact their state representative and express their opposition to Sub. HB 157 and urge that it not be voted out by the full House. We will continue to keep our members updated on this bill.
OHIO STATE AUDITOR ADVISORY MEMO ON AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT (ARPA) FUNDS SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS AND FRAUD PROTECTION INSURANCE
The following is an advisory memo from the Ohio Auditor of State on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund ID.me Submission Requirements and Fraud Protection Insurance. You can find a copy of the memo with the list of Metro cities HERE.
As part of the submission, your authorized representative will need to create an ID.me account and provide personal identifying information. They will also need a smart phone with camera to complete the setup of the account. Below is a list of the verifications and examples of required documentation.
Items you will need for ID.me account establishment:
· Smart Phone with Camera
· Laptop or Computer (optional)
· Email Address
· Social Security Number
· Photo ID (Driver’s License, Passport, Passport Card or State ID)
· Secondary Identification Documents – 2 needed (Utility Bill, W2 form, Birth Certificate)
· Getting Started:
Should a Secondary Identification be required you may be asked to verify your identity on a video call and provide 2 secondary forms of identification.
When you’ve finished the verification process, you will get a confirmation email that allows you to log in to the State, Local, and Tribal Portal with your new ID.me account.
Risk of Identity Theft:
The Portal states that throughout this process, information will remain completely secure. However, officials have understandably expressed concerns over having to submit personal identifying information to apply for public grant funds.
Therefore, the Auditor of State will not take exception to entities who purchase 1 year of fraud protection for individuals submitting their personal information for application of these funds assuming the level of coverage is reasonable.
The payment for this coverage must be paid for using local unrestricted funds. We are currently discussing with federal counterparts if this expenditure meets the criteria for an allowable cost under the American Rescue Program Funds. Further information will be forthcoming as this issue is determined.
PEP TO HOLD WEBINAR ON WORKPLACE UPDATES, RECORDING OF “USE OF FORCE” WEBINAR AVAILABLE
Next week on Tuesday, May 25 at 1 p.m., the Public Entities Pool of Ohio (PEP) is hosting a webinar entitled “COVID-19 Updates at Work.” The webinar will cover how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the workplace and present challenges for employers. Presenters will discuss paid sick leave, vaccine policies and guidelines, returning to the workplace, safety guidance and other employment considerations. Learn more and register HERE.
Additionally, last week, PEP hosted a Police Academy: Use of Force webinar. During the webinar, presenters and participants discussed the elements of proper Use of Force and Response to Resistance and Aggression policies and training. For those who were unable to attend the webinar, you can access the sample policy and the presentation materials and the webinar recording HERE.
OHIO EPA TO HOST WEBINAR ON WATER RESOURCE PROTECTION
On Tuesday, May 25 at 2 p.m., the Ohio EPA will be hosting a webinar covering what local leaders should know about water resource protection.
Many activities at or near a water body - like a stream, lake, or wetland - require a permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Ohio EPA. Residents who plan to alter a wetland, modify a shoreline, build a dock or seawall, construct a ditch/culvert, or other similar activity should be aware of the restrictions and permit requirements associated with those activities before they begin. It’s important that local leaders are familiar with these regulations as these are common questions that come up in community forums, board and planning meetings, and one-on-one conversations with residents. This webinar will provide an overview of the requirements associated with construction and modifications near or at a lake, stream, wetland, or other water body in Ohio and the opportunities for local protection.
Continuing education units (CEU) will be available for this webinar. Find out more and register HERE.
OHIO SENATE PASSES BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· SB 83 – Brownfield Sites. Sponsored by Sen. Williams (D – Cleveland) and Sen. Rulli (R – Salem), would require the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study to determine where brownfield sites are located in this state and make an appropriation. The bill was voted unanimously out of the full Senate. The League is supportive of this legislation.
· SB 56 – Design Contracts. Sponsored by Sen. Blessing (R – Colerain Twp.), would regulate the use of indemnity provisions in professional design contracts related to public improvements. The bill was voted unanimously out of the full Senate . The League is neutral on this legislation.
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· HB 228 – Municipal Corporation Tax. Sponsored by Rep. Roemer (R – Richfield) To make changes related to state-administered municipal net profits taxes. During its fourth hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, the bill was amendment to codify that the Ohio Attorney General’s Office can charge and deduct it collection costs from any state-administered municipal net profits tax that the office collects. The League submitted written testimony supporting the bill, which you can read HERE. The bill was then reported out of committee.
· HB 175 – Water Pollution. Sponsored by Rep. Hillyer (R – Urichsville), would deregulate certain ephemeral water features under various water pollution control laws. During its third hearing before the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, opponents including the Nature Conservancy in Ohio testified in opposition to this bill. The League is supportive of this legislation.
· SB 176 – Sports Gaming. Sponsored by Sen. Antani (R – Miamisburg) and Sen. Manning (R – N. Ridgeville), would legalize and regulate sports gaming in this state, to levy a tax on businesses that provide sports gaming, and make other changes to the Gambling Law. During its second hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Gaming, groups such as the Bowling Centers Association of Ohio and the Ohio Grocers Association pushed for language that would allow them to participate in sports betting. The League is neutral on this legislation.
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
· As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 1,094,742 cases of coronavirus, 19,628 resident deaths, 58,396 hospitalizations and 8,026 ICU admissions.
New Health Order:
o Under the CDC's new guidance, those who have not been vaccinated should still wear a mask and socially distance.
· Ohio's order reflects the CDC's recommendation that everyone wear masks when in a healthcare setting, when traveling on public transportation (including airplanes), and when at a business or employer that chooses to require masks.
· The CDC recommendations make clear that businesses will be able to choose for themselves whether they continue to require masks in their premises.
o If a business chooses to require masking for employees and customers, that is permitted under the CDC guidance and Ohio's order.
o If a business chooses not to require masks and leave that choice to customers and employees, that is also permitted in the CDC guidance and Ohio's order.
· As advised by the CDC, Ohio's order also continues to require masking in congregate settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and in settings with large numbers of unvaccinated individuals, such as schools and daycare centers.
Youth Vaccination FAQs:
o The document shares information about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, parental consent, where children can be vaccinated, and more.
o This vaccine is available at Children’s Hospitals, as well as a number of regular hospitals, local health departments, retail pharmacies, community health centers, primary care physicians, and some pediatricians.
· Parents who would like their child to be vaccinated at their pediatrician's office are encouraged to call the office first and ask if they are administering the Pfizer vaccine.
o Pediatricians that are not yet registered to be vaccine providers are encouraged to sign up. Pediatricians and other potential vaccine providers can find more information at odh.ohio.gov.
· Governor DeWine announced that the Ohio Vax-a-Million drawing will be an opt-in program.
o Starting this week, Ohioans will be asked to register for the drawings by visiting OhioVaxaMillion.com or by calling the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
· Detailed information about the drawings is available in this press release from the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Lottery.
Resources for Ohio Employers:
· As Ohio’s economy recovers, businesses continue to experience difficulty filling open positions.
o Employers can report work refusals on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) website.
· Because of the wide availability of both jobs and the vaccine in the state, ODJFS now has several buttons featured prominently on their websites for employers to report former employees who are receiving unemployment but have refused offers of suitable work.
o Ohio law states that individuals are not entitled to unemployment benefits if they have resigned or have declined an offer of suitable work by filling out the “Eligibility Notice/Refusal to Return to Work Form.”
o Employers reporting work refusals should be prepared to provide their name, email address, Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), claimant name, claimant ID or the last four digits of the claimant’s Social Security number, and additional details about the specific situation.
o ODJFS will then investigate and send both parties an appealable determination on whether the quit or work refusal was for good cause.
o Ohio law states that individuals are not entitled to unemployment benefits if they have resigned or have declined an offer of suitable work without “good cause."
· Individuals can visit OhioMeansJobs.com or contact their local OhioMeansJobs center to find and apply for job openings, take skill and career interest assessments, create or improve their resume, or practice interviewing.
o OhioMeansJobs.com currently lists more than 180,000 job openings, and nearly 95,000 of them pay more than $50,000 per year.
o To find contact information for your nearest OhioMeansJobs center, visit OhioMeansJobs.com and select “FIND A JOB CENTER” at the bottom of the page or call 1-888-296-7541.
Case Data and Vaccine Information: