OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:
· This week, the federal House Oversight and Reform Committee released legislation allocating financial aid to state and local governments under the next COVID-19 relief package. The language as written would provide $350 billion to states, cities, counties and other local governments. The League has signed on to a letter drafted by the National League of Cities (NLC) urging Congress to pass the language as written. The letter has been sent to members of Congress. You can read it in full HERE and read more about the language in the article below.
· Budget Watch: This week, the Ohio House Finance Committee released a draft of the FY22-23 state operating budget bill. The Language has been filed with the House Clerk's Office and will receive a formal introduction on Tuesday, February 16, where it will receive an official number. You can find full document HERE.
· The Buckeye Institute has filed two more lawsuits in Columbus and Cincinnati alleging that Section 29 of HB is unconstitutional. Sec. 29 mandates that a municipality continue to withhold income tax at a taxpayer’s place of work, even if that taxpayer is working remotely in a different local jurisdiction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The provision will end 30 days after the Governor’s declaration of emergency expires. The provision was passed during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure revenue stability for municipalities and to avoid administrative burdens on Ohio business.
· The Ohio EPA has decided to hold a second public hearing on Ohio’s Section 401 Water Quality Certification for Nationwide Permits on Wednesday, February 17, at 3:30 p.m. The first meeting was held on Thursday, February 4. This second meeting will include a presentation tailored to questions and concerns brought up during the first meeting, along with a Q&A session for participants. Because Ohio EPA is hosting a second informational meeting, the public comment period will be extended on the 401 Certification to accept comments until Wednesday, February 24. You can register for next week’s meeting HERE.
NEW LANGUGE FOR FEDERAL COVID-19 RELIEF PACKAGE CONTAINS FUNDING FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
This week, the federal House Oversight and Reform Committee provided new details on the state and local government aid section under the COVID-19 emergency aid reconciliation package. The package would deliver federal emergency aid to every city, village and town across the nation with no minimum population requirement. Below is a summary of the bill’s state and local government provisions from the National League of Cities (NLC):
Main points for cities, towns, and villages:
· $350 billion in total for all municipalities, counties, states, tribes, and territories. Of that amount,
o $130 billion is set-aside for local governments, equally divided between municipalities and counties.
o The $65 billion for municipalities will be allocated to all 19,000 cities, towns, and villages according to a modified Community Development Block Grant formula. Under that formula:
§ $45.5 billion will be split among all municipalities that are designated CDBG entitlement cities (generally cities with populations above 50,000)
§ $19.5 billion will be split among cities not designated CDBG entitlement cities (generally cities with populations below 50,000 residents)
Of the remaining funds:
· $195 billion for states and the District of Columbia
· $65 billion for counties
· $20 billion for tribes
· $4.5 billion for territories
· No deadline for spending down funds
· Eligible expenditures will include replacement of lost revenue
· The U.S. Treasury Department will allocate funds in similar fashion to community development block grants (CDBG).
· After the House Oversight and Reform Committee votes on the state and local aid section it will be delivered to the House Budget Committee to be assembled into the broader emergency aid package. House committees will also likely vote this week on sections involving transportation assistance section and housing assistance, both of which are summarized below:
Emergency Rental Assistance:
· Additional $29 billion in assistance for homeowners and renters, including for utility payments.
· Expand on the $25 billion renter assistance program enacted in last year’s the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
· Provide $19.05 billion in funding to the Department of Treasury for emergency rental and utility assistance that would be allocated to states, territories, counties, and cities to help stabilize renters and help rental property owners of all sizes continue to cover their costs.
· Provide $9.961 billion to states, territories, and tribes to address the ongoing needs of homeowners struggling to afford their housing due directly or indirectly to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic by providing direct assistance with mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other housing related costs.
Transportation and Infrastructure Assistance:
· FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund: $50 billion for reimbursement to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments dealing with ongoing response and recovery activities from COVID-19, including vaccination efforts, deployment of the National Guard, providing personal protective equipment for critical public sector employees, and disinfecting activities in public facilities such as schools and courthouses.
· Transit: $30 billion to help assist with operating costs, including payroll and personal protective equipment.
· Airports: $8 billion, including $800 million for airport concessionaires.
· Economic Development Administration: $3 billion to provide economic adjustment assistance to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to economic injury caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
· Aerospace Manufacturing: $3 billion for a temporary payroll support program to retain or rehire workers.
The League encourages our members to contact their Congressional delegates and urge them to support this language providing much-needed aid to state and local governments. Without an investment from the federal government, Ohio’s cities and villages will struggle to recover economically from the fiscal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, jeopardizing the stability of the local services residents and business depend upon. Ohio’s economic recovery and continued business-friendliness depends upon the financial health and stability of its municipalities. Local leaders should urge their members in Congress to help ensure Ohio’s successful economic recovery by investing in its cities and villages.
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
· Governor DeWine has announced that the statewide overnight coronavirus curfew has been lifted completely after Ohio reported fewer than 2,500 hospitalizations for seven consecutive days.
· Ohio is reporting 931,437 cases of coronavirus, 1,104 deaths, 48,269 hospitalizations and 6,907 ICU admissions.
COVID-19 Vaccine Program Update:
Ohio received a total of 214,525 first doses of vaccine this week.
- A total of 223,025 first doses are scheduled to arrive in Ohio during the week of February 15.
- The federal retail pharmacy program will soon begin allotting doses to Ohio's more than 160 Rite Aid pharmacies.
- Vaccine distribution will also expand into all 194 Kroger pharmacies.
Those with specific medical conditions that put them at a very high risk of dying from COVID-19 will be eligible for vaccinations next week.
Ohioans born with the medical conditions outlined, or those who were diagnosed in early childhood whose conditions continued into adulthood, will qualify to be vaccinated beginning on February 15.
· Approximately 12,000 individuals with these severe medical conditions and developmental disabilities have already been vaccinated, and vaccinations of those in this group will continue.
- The Ohio Development Services Agency is now distributing $100 million in federal funding to help low-income Ohioans who do not own their own home pay their rent, water, sewer, wastewater, electric, gas, oil and/or trash removal bills.
- Ohioans can apply for assistance with outstanding balances dating back to March 13, 2020, assistance for future rent/utility payments once back bills have been made current, and assistance for future rent and utility assistance for three months at a time.
- Eligible Ohio households must:
- Be at or below 80% of their county’s Area Median Income (varies by county and size of household);
- Have experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19; and
- Demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
- The funding, which was approved by the Ohio Controlling Board for distribution, will be divided among Ohio’s 47 Community Action Agencies. Ohioans can apply for assistance by contacting their local Community Action Agency.
A list of agencies can be found at businesshelp.ohio.gov under Home Relief Grants.
Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities Update:
- The number of COVID-19 cases in Ohio's nursing homes has dropped more than 77% since late November.
- This dramatic drop in cases follows Ohio's aggressive efforts to vaccinate residents and staff in Ohio's long-term care facilities.
- As outlined in the attached chart, there were 2,697 COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities in Ohio during the week of November 29, 2021.
- During the week of January 17, there were 612 positive cases.
- Ohio's maintenance COVID-19 vaccine program plan to ensure residents and staff within nursing homes and assisted living facilities have continuing access to the life-saving vaccine is nearly complete.
- The plan will outline how nursing homes and assisted living facilities will move forward to vaccinate new residents, new workers, and workers who initially declined the vaccine but are now willing to be vaccinated. The plan will leverage existing relationships between nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and the pharmacies that regularly provide them with prescription drugs.
- In preparation for the release of this plan, Governor DeWine urged administrators for long-term and assisted-living facilities to find out if their facility already has a pharmacy provider that can administer the vaccine.
- If the provider is not a COVID vaccine provider, they should determine if they intend to become one.
- Since the pandemic began, individuals in long-term care settings, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have been at the greatest risk of death from COVID-19. Over 50% of Ohio’s deaths have been individuals from long-term care settings.
- To protect family members and loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Ohio immediately activated the federal long-term care vaccination program in mid-December.
- First and second doses of the vaccine have been administered in nearly all of Ohio's nursing homes and most of Ohio's assisted living centers.
- Governor DeWine announced progress toward the goal of getting K-12 students back into the classroom by March 1.
- In December, 45 percent of Ohio students were attending school remotely full-time, but today, less than 15 percent of Ohio students are still attending classes completely online.
- Despite this progress, the pandemic has taken a toll on academic progress, as demonstrated in the Ohio Department of Education’s fall 2020 enrollment report.
- Governor DeWine asked school districts to work with their communities to help students advance and make up for any learning that may have been lost or delayed because of the pandemic.
- Governor DeWine also requested that school districts design plans to meet the needs of the students in their districts that include ending the school year later than scheduled, beginning the new year early, or even extending the school day.
- Summer programs, tutoring, or remote options could also be considered. School districts should provide their plans to the public and General Assembly no later than April 1.
- Lt. Governor Husted also highlighted a provision in the proposed Executive Budget that guarantees student access to a computer science education.
- The “right to access” computer science classes would be defined as the statutory right of a student to be able to take a class either offered directly by their school district or through another provider of the student’s choice.
- However, the program must be approved through the Ohio Department of Education.
· More than 5,000 Ohioans have officially graduated from the ApprenticeOhio program since the start of the DeWine-Husted Administration.
· Ohio is currently ranked number one among states who run registered apprenticeships at the state level, and number four among states who run registered apprenticeships at the federal level.
o Many ApprenticeOhio programs are completed within two to four years.
· ApprenticeOhio programs provide full-time work during the training period as well as competitive wages – allowing Ohioans to earn while they learn.
· On average, apprentices in Ohio earn $60,000 a year without racking up student loan debt.
o Ohio offers apprenticeship opportunities in traditional fields like construction and manufacturing, and non-traditional apprenticeship fields like IT and healthcare.
· Through this program, ApprenticeOhio program sponsors can grow their workforce, improve productivity, reduce turnover costs and increase employee retention.
BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST PASSED BY THE SENATE
· SB 8 – Broadband Services. Sponsored by Sen. McColley (R – Napoleon), is regarding broadband expansion, including access to electric cooperative easements and facilities, and make an appropriation. After being passed out of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, the bill was passed unanimously by the full Senate. The bill now heads to the House to begin committee hearings. The League is supportive of this legislation.
NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST INTRODUCED
· SB 55 – Massage Therapy. Sponsored by Sen. Brenner (R - Powell), would make changes to the laws governing massage establishments and massage therapy.
· SB 56 – Indemnity Design Contracts. Sponsored by Sen. Blessing (R – Colerain Twp.), would regulate the use of indemnity provisions in professional design contracts related to public improvements.
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· HB 2 – Broadband Services. Sponsored by Rep. Carfagna (R – Genoa Twp.) and Rep. Stewart (R – Ashville), is regarding broadband expansion, including access to electric cooperative easements and facilities, and make an appropriation. During both its first and its second hearing before the House Finance Committee proponents testified in support of the bill. The League and the Ohio Township Association submitted joint proponent testimony, which you can read in full HERE.
· SB 38 – Tax Credit. Sponsored by Sen. Schaffer (R - Lancaster), would allow an income tax credit for law enforcement officials and volunteer firefighters who purchase safety or protective items to be used in the course of official law enforcement or firefighting activities. During its first hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the bill’s sponsor explained that the legislation would allow certain first responders to claim a personal nonrefundable tax credit up to $500 for money spent on the purchase of safety or protective gear for use while they are performing their official duties. The League is supportive of this legislation.
· SB 45 – Tax Inducement. Sponsored by Sen. Peterson (R – Sabina) and Sen. Kunze (R – Hilliard), would enhance state and local tax inducements for businesses making substantial fixed asset and employment investments and their suppliers. During its first hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, the bill’s sponsors explained that the legislation is intended to authorize local governments to grant longer term property tax exemptions for businesses or suppliers making substantial fixed asses and employment investments, among other provisions. The League is neutral on this legislation.
· HB 63 – Eminent Domain. Sponsored by Rep. Cutrona (R – Canfield) and Rep. Stoltzfus, R – Paris Twp.), would amend the law regarding eminent domain and declare an emergency. During its first hearing before the House Civil Justice Committee, the bill’s sponsors explained that the legislation is intended to allow residents impacted by an eminent domain process to take the matter to township trustees. The League is still looking into this legislation.
· SB 39 – Officer Assault. Sponsored by Sen. Schaffer (R – Lancaster), would eliminate the 20-year statute of limitation for felonious assault and aggravated assault if the victim is a peace officer, modify the law regarding records retention schedules developed by counties, municipal corporations, and townships, modify the penalties for aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, falsification, and falsification in a theft offense, and name this act Cooper's Law. During its first hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill’s sponsored explained that the legislation is intended to treat all crimes against peace officers, if not solved immediately, as cold cases. The League is still looking into this legislation.
· HB 23 – EMS Personnel (Plummer (R – Dayton) and Rep. West (D – Canton), would require emergency medical service personnel and peace officers to undergo dementia-related training. During its first hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, the bill’s sponsors explained that the legislation is intended to address a shift in Ohio’s demographic The League is still looking into this legislation.
· HB 43 – Public Meetings. Sponsored by Rep. Sobecki (D – Toledo) and Rep. Hoops (R – Napoleon), would authorize public bodies to meet via teleconference and video conference. During its first hearing before the House Government Oversight Committee, the bill’s sponsors explained that the legislation is intended to permanently extend the current allowance for government bodies to hold virtual public meetings beyond the current expiration of the authority on July 1. The League is supportive of this legislation.