OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
 
Here are the top five things you need to know from this past week:
 
·        On Monday, Site Selection magazine announced their annual winners of the 2020 Governor’s Cup rankings for new corporate development and expansion projects per capita based on the number of major projects, including headquarters, manufacturing plants, and research and development facilities. Ohio surpassed Texas this year and was awarded first place in the national competition. The state's 419 developments earned it the No.1 slot while many Ohio cities were also recognized for their ability to attract new corporate facilities and business investment. Cincinnati, Cleveland-Elyria and Columbus were all top 10 finishers by Site Selection for cities with populations above one million residents. Toledo tied for first among cities with a population between 200,000 and one million. Dayton-Kettering placed fifth in the latter category, and Akron tied for 10th. For the seventh straight year, Findlay took first place as the top "micropolitan" area, while Tiffin, Fremont and Wooster were among the top 10 in the same category for producing projects. Congratulations to all of these communities recognized for their achievements. 
 
·        The US Senate is expected to pass H.R. 1315, the American Rescue Plan as soon as today and the legislation is anticipated to be on the President’s desk this weekend. Among many areas of targeted relief initiatives and policy matters that are included in the plan, the bill contains $350 billion in relief aid to the nation’s state and local governments. As proposed, $11 billion will be allocated to the state of Ohio and our local governments. You can read more specifics on the relief plan and the impact to Ohio’s communities below and a description of issues addressed in the proposal can be found HERE.
 
 
·        Budget Watch: The Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 74, the $8 billion, two-year transportation budget bill Thursday, sending the bill on to the Ohio Senate where informal hearings have been taking place. The legislation contains $100 million for major new road construction projects and $1 billion in funding for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The list of items amended by the Ohio House from the original bill can be found HERE. Some of those items include the removal of language increasing penalties for distracted driving and providing additional funding for public transit.
 
 
·        Beginning Thursday, as part of the Governor’s announcement of the Phase 1C statewide distribution schedule for the COVID-19 vaccination program, Law Enforcement personnel and Corrections Officers are now eligible to receive the vaccination. This category of eligible recipients includes over 76,000 Ohioans including police officers, sheriff’s deputies, OSH Patrol officers and other state and federal law enforcement officers.   
 
 
·        The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) will be hosting webinars directed towards Ohio’s local leaders on issues dealing with open burning (March 11 HERE), a continuation of the BWC 2021 Ohio Safety Congress related to environmental assistance (March 12 HERE) and a third to help leaders better understand Federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) as it relates to Ohio’s construction storm water requirements (March 25 HERE). CEU’s are available for these sessions.
 

 
ACTION EXPECTED BY US SENATE ON $1.9 TRILLION AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN

Last Week, the US House of Representatives approved H.R. 1315, the American Rescue Plan, a comprehensive $1.9 trillion relief package which is now before the U.S. Senate. The legislation approved by the House includes $350 billion in state and local government funding. Specifically, states would receive $195.3 billion with $11 billion total for Ohio with the state keeping $5.7 billion and local governments receiving $5.4 billion; municipal and county governments would receive $60 billion each; tribal governments would be allotted $20 billion while territories would receive $4.5 billion leaving $1.2 billion for the District of Columbia (D.C.).
 
As the Senate prepares to act on the bill as soon as today, amendments have been added to the legislation. Some of these changes are impactful to municipalities and include:

·        Divides the local allocation of funds into two equal tranches of payments spaced 12 months apart.

·        Adds a new $10 billion Critical Infrastructure Projects program to help States, territories, and Tribal governments carry out critical capital projects directly enabling work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to COVID-19.

·        Makes clear that funds can be used for local economic recovery purposes, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, assistance to hard-hit industries like tourism, travel, and hospitality, and infrastructure investment.

The National League of Cities has been working hard to keep the League and our members informed and engaged with Ohio’s congressional delegation to express the significant need that exists as Ohio’s cities and villages exhaust previous aid relief and continue to struggle to generate revenue to keep the delivery of critical services stable and assured into the future. This new round of funding is even more critical to Ohio’s communities because of the expanded opportunities for local leaders to more efficiently apply the aid to where it is needed most, for budget stabilization efforts and to provide greater flexibility in the resourceful applications specific to each community that was not afforded communities in the previous CARES Act relief legislation.
Below, the NLC has help incapsulate the direct benefit H.R. 1315 or the American Rescue Plan will have on Ohio’s communities, state, and residents.     
The American Rescue Plan: Impacts on Ohio

The Need for Action in Ohio

• Since the pandemic began, more than 950,000 people in Ohio have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 16,000 people have died.
• The unemployment rate in Ohio is 5.5%, up from 4.1% before the pandemic.
• Since February 2020, more than 200,000 fewer Ohioans are employed.
• 879,000 adults in Ohio – 12% of all adults in the state – report not having enough food to eat. This includes 494,000 adults living with children, or 17% of all adults living with children.
• An estimated 586,000 Ohio renters or 24% of renters are not caught up on rent.
• An estimated 2,602,000 Ohio adults or 32% of all adults statewide report having difficulty covering normal household expenses.

The Effect of the American Rescue Plan on Ohio

The House’s American Rescue Plan bill, which is based on President Biden’s proposal, would provide Ohio with:
• $5.7 billion in state fiscal relief
• $5.4 billion in local fiscal relief
• More than $4.5 billion in relief for K-12 schools
• Economic impact payments of up to $1,400 per person (above the $600 per person provided in December) for more than 8 million people
• Additional relief of up to $1,600 per child through the Child Tax Credit to the families of 2.3 million children, lifting 132,000 children out of poverty
• Addition relief of up to nearly $1,000 through the Earned Income Tax Credit to 695,000 childless workers, including many in frontline jobs
• A monthly increase in nutrition assistance of about $27 per person for 1,401,000 people, according to the most recent estimates
• Marketplace health insurance premiums that are $349 lower per month for a family of four earning $120,000 per year

Congress should swiftly pass the American Rescue Plan, which would help Ohio combat COVID-19, provide immediate relief to Ohio workers and families, and extend critical support to Ohio governments and businesses in need.
 


OHIO HOUSE AND SENATE ANNOUNCE $1.9 BILLION LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE TO ENTITIES FOR COVID-19 RELIEF
 

As Congress continues to work on H.R. 1319 or the American Rescue Plan, this week members of the Ohio House and Senate announced new legislative proposals to appropriate nearly $2 billion for another state sponsored coronavirus relief plan aimed at schools, businesses, and rent assistance programs.

The majority of the funding is derived from federal funding enacted by Congress late last year, but there are contributions from the state’s general revenue fund and other sources. $2.5 billion in funding has already been approved by the General Assembly to be distributed to Ohio's local governments and schools.

The companion measures are comprised of:
 
SB 108 (Huffman/Romanchuk) /HB 169 (Cutrona/Swearingen)- would offer $100 million in grants for bars and restaurants and $25 million for lodging industry grants. Awards will be given in amounts of $30,000, $20,000, and $10,000 based on lost revenue.

SB 109 (Manning/Rulli) /HB 168 (Fazier/Loychik) – provides for $150 million appropriated for a second round of small business grants for those small businesses that were already approved for aid but did not receive it due to lack of programming. $112 million is earmarked for Childcare providers towards the use of reimbursements for pandemic-related expenses. $20 million is allocated for indoor entertainment venues and $10 million is reserved for new business grants for those entities that formed after Jan. 1, 2020. $4.7 million is dedicated for county and independent fairs and $3 million for the state's two veterans' homes.

SB 110 (O’Brien/Williams) /HB167 (Oelslager)- offers $465 million to help Ohioans struggling with rent and utility payments. In October of last year, the state distributed $55.2 million dedicated for mortgage, rent and utility assistance.

SB 111 (Blessing/Brenner) /HB 170 (Bird/Richardson) - includes $683.1 million to public schools, $154.8 million to private schools and $19 million for educational service centers, joint vocational schools and county boards of developmental disabilities. $173 million would go towards expanded testing and vaccine distribution by ODH while $8 million would go to the Adjutant General's Department for additional deployment of Ohio National Guard rapid response personnel and resources to serve older Ohioans.

Hearings are expected to begin on the separate legislative proposals next week. The League will keep our members aware of the progress of these proposals.
 

 
ADVISORY: AUDITOR FABER ADDRESSES LOCAL GOVERNMENT REIMBURSEMENT OF FRAUDULENT UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS
 
Columbus – Auditor of State Keith Faber has heard concerns from a number of local government officials over the past few weeks regarding the reimbursement of fraudulent unemployment compensation claims.
 
The Auditor’s Office understands that various local governments received guidance from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) that reimbursing employers would be responsible for payment of the employer’s share of unemployment compensation claims – even when the claim was clearly fraudulent. 
 
This advisory should serve as clear guidance to our clients facing this issue. The Auditor of State will not issue a finding for recovery nor make an adverse audit finding where a local government elects to pay the invoice from ODJFS as a reimbursing employer for potentially fraudulent claims. Under normal circumstances, outside a pandemic and the crush of fraudulent claims, this would be a proper public expenditure. Likewise, if a local government elects to not pay the ODJFS invoice for a known fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits, the Auditor will also not make an audit finding of non-compliance where the entity relies on a well-reasoned legal opinion. Of course, local governments should continue to do their part in reporting fraud to ODJFS.
 
Additionally, Auditor Faber stands ready to work with Lieutenant Governor Husted, the General Assembly, our local government partners, associations, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to fix this problem. Ohio’s local governments should not be made to bear the burden and cost of fraudulent unemployment claims during this pandemic and the accompanying surge of fraud.
 
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio is responsible for auditing more than 6,000 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Keith Faber, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies, and promotes transparency in government.
 
 
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
 
·        In a statewide address Thursday evening, Governor DeWine announced that when Ohio reaches 50 cases per 100,000 people for two weeks, all health orders will be lifted. Cases per 100,000 people for a two-week period is a measurement that Governor DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health have utilized since early in the pandemic. 
 
 
VACCINE AVAILABILITY

·        Governor DeWine announced that Ohio is expected to receive more than 448,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week.
o  Of that total, more than 96,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be delivered to around 200 new independent pharmacy providers as well as chain pharmacies, hospitals, and health departments.
 
·        Ohio now offers more than 1,200 provider locations. Ohioans can find vaccine provider locations at vaccine.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
o  Those who do not have access to the internet or are having trouble managing the online scheduling systems should call their local health department, the 211 helpline center, or the Area Agencies on Aging at 1-866-243-5678.

 
PHASE 1C AND PHASE 2 VACCINATION ELIGIBILITY

·        In response to this significant increase in the amount of vaccine coming into Ohio, on Monday, Governor DeWine outlined the individuals who are included in Phase 1C and Phase 2 of Ohio's vaccination plan which will go into effect on March 4.
 
·        Phase 1C includes approximately 246,000 eligible Ohioans with certain occupations and with certain medical conditions not addressed in previous phases.
 
·        Phase 1C: Medical Groups
o       Type 1 diabetes
o       Pregnant women
o       Bone marrow transplant recipients
o       ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
 
·        Phase 1C: Occupations
o       Childcare Services - Approximately 40,400 Ohioans:
§ Administrators, lead and assistant teachers, and substitutes who are enrolled in Ohio’s Professional Registry who are currently working in open childcare and pre-kindergarten programs.
§ Licensing specialists employed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services or county job and family services agencies.
·        This phase does not include parent volunteers, board members, or owners/administrators that do not provide in-classroom supports.
 
o       Funeral Services - Approximately 3,600 Ohioans:
§ Embalmers/morticians, funeral home directors, crematory operators, and apprentices.
 
o       Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers - Approximately 76,000 Ohioans:
§ Examples of law enforcement occupations included in Phase 1C are police officers; sheriff’s deputies; Ohio State Highway Patrol Troopers; other state or federal enforcement officers such as Ohio Department of Natural Resource enforcement staff, pharmacy board investigators, BCI agents, state fire marshal investigators, federal transportation security officers, and other federal law enforcement officers who do not have access to vaccination from federal sources.
 
·        Phase 2
o       Because the risk of more severe reactions and outcomes of COVID-19 increase with age, Phase 2 will open vaccinations based on age, beginning with Ohioans ages 60 and older.
o       This group includes approximately 695,000 eligible Ohioans.