OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top four things you need to know from this past week:
• Earlier this week, the Controlling Board approved the release of $175 million in federal coronavirus aid to Ohio’s local governments. While municipalities do not have to pass a new resolution to receive the new distribution, those that have not passed a resolution allowing them to participate in the distribution program will not receive a distribution. You can find a sample resolution HERE. Communities must also register their DUNS with the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) at grants.ohio.gov.
• We want to thank all those members who have reached out to their congressional delegation and urged them to pass a phase 4 federal coronavirus relief bill with substantial and flexible funding for local governments. As Congress continues to discuss a possible aid package, the issue remains largely with the U.S. Senate. More outreach needs to be done. You can access a template letter HERE, which we are asking our members to send to Senators Portman and Brown and their individual members of Congress. We must continue to impress upon the federal government the need for additional and flexible direct aid to Ohio and its local governments to help with the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
• The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has announced that it will cut rates 10% for counties, cities, public schools and other public employers in 2021. According to the BWC, the cut will collectively save those agencies $14.8 million and were made possible by a decline in worker injuries and relatively low inflation in medical costs. This is the 12th cut for public employers since 2009 and follows a 10% cut that went into effect in January.
• Ohio’s response rate to the 2020 Census is currently trending higher than the national average and is on track to beat the state’s 69% response rate in 2010. We encourage Ohio’s municipal leaders to continue to impress upon their communities the importance of counting every citizen and the impact that will have on the ability to provide necessary local services, determine how $675 billion is distributed among the states and dictate Ohio’s representation in Congress. The census can be completed at www.2020Census.gov or by calling 1-844-330-2020.
SENATE BILL WOULD DISTRIBUTE REMAINING $650 MILLION IN CARES ACT FUNDS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
This week, Sen. Dolan (R – Chagrin Falls) introduced SB 357, which would distribute the remaining $650 million in CARES Act funds designated for Ohio’s local governments. (Link: https://bit.ly/32xTSp9)
While the federal funds have been distributed to local governments through a slightly-modified Local Government Fund (LGF) formula, SB 357 would distribute the funds differently. The monies would be distributed on a per capital basis and would still exclude Columbus and the five counties with populations large enough to have received a direct distribution from the federal government.
The bill also includes an emergency clause, since the federal funds must be encumbered by local governments by October 15 so the remainder can be returned and redistributed. The League will be talking to legislators about the possibility of changing the October deadline to grant more time for the distribution to be encumbered by local communities. By December 30, all unencumbered funds must be returned to the federal government. As with the previously-distributed CARES Act dollars, local governments can currently only use the funds for non-budgetary COVID-19-related expenses as prescribed by the federal government.
Sen. Dolan stated publicly that he expects the Senate Finance Committee, which he is chairman of, will be Tuesday and Wednesday of next week to hold hearings on the bill and hopes to vote the bill out of committee on Wednesday. We encourage our members to call their senators and express their support for the quick passage of SB 357. Our members can expect projections from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) regarding what revenues communities might expect through the alternative distribution method in the bill.
We greatly appreciate Sen. Dolan’s continued work to ensure local governments quickly receive the revenues they need for coronavirus-related expenses. We will keep our members apprised as this bill moves through the legislative process.
OHIO’S LARGE CITIES EXPERIENCING THE HIGHEST RATES OF UNEMPLOYMENT OVER STATE AVERAGE
The most recently-released unemployment data shows that Ohio’s big cities are experiencing the highest rates of unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, Columbus is at 9.6%, Akron is at 11.6%, Cleveland is at 17%, Cincinnati is at 10.9%, Dayton is at 12.6% and Toledo is at 12.4%.
The state’s unemployment rate according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was 8.9% in July, meaning Ohio’s major cities are experiencing higher unemployment rates than the state average.
While the unemployment rates in all of Ohio’s metro areas and counties fell last month, they did so partly because large numbers of workers dropped out of the labor force. Columbus’ labor force, for example, fell by about 17,000 in July compared, while Cleveland’s labor force fell by roughly 40,000.
Although these numbers are an improvement over the June data, these rates suggest the closing of businesses and restaurants have had a more substantial impact on Ohio’s cities more than other parts of the state.
This data illustrates that Ohio’s cities need additional federal aid in order to continue delivering the quality local services Ohioans deserve. Not only do Ohio’s cities and villages need the rest of the CARES Act funds distributed, but the greatest need is for the federal government to ease current restrictions on how CARES dollars can be used and allow for the aid to be applied where it is most needed: for the purposes of budget stabilization.
We strongly encourage our members to contact Senators Portman and Brown and their individual members of Congress and urge them to fight for more assistance to Ohio and our hometowns. We have provided a sample letter in a bullet point at the top of the bulletin that our members can use, either partly or wholly, to convey the urgency of the situation our municipalities are facing. Thank you for your continued efforts.
DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES AGENCY PROVIDES UPDATE ON OHIO CENSUS 2020 RESPONSE AND HOW LOCAL LEADERS CAN HELP
This week, the Ohio Developmental Services Agency (DSA) provided Ohio local government agencies with a PowerPoint containing valuable information on Ohio’s Census 2020 response rate and ways local leaders can contribute to the effort to count each and every Ohioan. You can read the PowerPoint in full HERE.
According to the data provided by the DSA, Ohio’s current response rate stands at 68.6%, beating the national response rate which stands at 64.5%. Ohio ranks eleventh out of all 50 states, with Minnesota leading with a 73.5% response rate.
Response rate rankings by Ohio county shows Medina County leading the state with an 81.6% response rate, followed by Delaware, Geauga, Warren and Union counties. Several counties were reporting under 50% in response rates in May and have since shown some improvement. However, Ottawa, Harrison, Morgan, Vinton and Meigs counties currently remain those with the lowest response rate as of August 25.
According to the DSA, local leaders can greatly help in ensuring each citizen within their community is counted. Recommendations include leading a Town Hall call with community leaders, putting a link to my2020census.gov on social media platforms and writing an Op Ed or letter to the editor. The PowerPoint also includes sample posts, graphics and hashtags to make promoting the 2020 Census easy and efficient. We encourage our municipal leaders to take advantage of these resources and work to help count each Ohio citizen.
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
• As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 112,489 cases of the coronavirus, 4,076 deaths, 13,150 hospitalizations and 2,929 ICU admissions.
• Governor DeWine released this week's new Ohio Public Health Advisory System map.
• Upgraded to Level 3 (Red): Montgomery
• Remaining at Level 3 (Red): Erie, Lorain, Lucas, Mercer, and Preble
• Downgraded to Level 2 (Orange): Clark, Clermont, Franklin, and Trumbull
• Downgraded to Level 1 (Yellow): Marion, Muskingum, Perry, and Sandusky
• There are no counties on Ohio’s Watch List
Business and Employment Updates:
• The Ohio Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Program, which pairs college students with tech companies and any company with a technology-related need, is looking for additional businesses to apply. Visit development.ohio.gov for more information.
• The Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and InnovateOhio have identified an additional 38 duplicate payments, totaling $93,978 in savings, using the InnovateOhio Duplicate Payment Tool. In total, $1.1 million in savings have been identified since this project launched. OBM works with agencies to ensure that all duplicate payments are recovered.
• Ohioans filed 18,988 initial jobless claims last week, according to statistics the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported to the U.S. Dept. of Labor today. Over the last 23 weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $6.1 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 790,000 Ohioans. Of the more than 1.3 million applications the agency has received, about 94% have been processed, with about 6% pending. In addition, ODJFS has issued more than $5.3 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to more than 542,000 PUA claimants.
· This week, during a press conference, Governor DeWine discussed the recently-issued Director's Order that Provides Mandatory Requirements for Youth, Collegiate, Amateur, Club, and Professional Sports. The order limits the maximum number of spectators gathered at an outdoor sports venue to the lesser of 1,500 individuals or 15 percent of fixed, seated capacity. The maximum for indoor sports venues is the lesser of 300 individuals or 15 percent of fixed, seated capacity. If a venue has more room to permit additional socially-distanced spectator capacity, a variance provision in the order allows schools to request a higher spectator limit by submitting a plan in writing to their local health department and the Ohio Department of Health. The variance plan must include a justification for increased capacity and an explanation of how social distancing will be maintained between family groups.
· It is the responsibility of the school/venue to monitor and enforce the social distancing requirement, prohibition on congregating among spectators, and the other provisions outlined in the sports order. Evaluating a sports venue’s variance plan may require conversations with school/venue officials and a site visit. The Ohio Department of Health will rely upon local health departments to conduct the first assessment of the variance plan. Variances will not be granted to expand the number of fans beyond family members of both teams and others who may perform during the event.
· The sports order has been modified to clarify that participants shall not compete in more than one contest or game in any calendar day, as compared to the 24-hour period outlined in the original order. The goal of this adjustment in language is to assist organizers and teams when scheduling games or contests.
• The Ohio Department of Health will be issuing an order that requires K-12 schools to establish a mechanism for parents and guardians to report confirmed cases of COVID-19 among their children. Schools should notify parents/guardians in writing about each case and include as much information as possible without disclosing protected health information. Schools should also make non-identifying information about positive COVID-19 cases publicly available.
• The forthcoming order will also direct all K-12 schools to report confirmed cases to their local health department, which will then report new cases and cumulative case data for students and teachers to the Ohio Department of Health. This aggregate data will be published at coronavirus.ohio.gov each Wednesday.
· Interim Ohio Department of Health Director Lance Himes today signed the Director's Order that Provides Mandatory Requirements for Entertainment Venues, which you can read HERE.
OHIO INSURANCE INSTITUTE ISSUES RECOMMENDATIONS ON SURETIES AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
The concepts of social distancing have been a significant consideration for all of us as we interact with each other. One such instance is the execution of construction bonds and commercial surety bonds. Traditionally, many state and local government entities executed construction and commercial surety bonds in-person and with a wet signature. There is no requirement under Ohio law that such execution occur with a wet signature. In fact, Ohio law encourages electronic execution of most documents.
The Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) has become of aware of instances where local subdivisions have required in-person execution with wet signatures and corporate seals. This places employees of the local government and the surety writer in the untenable situation to potentially interact outside the spirit of various social distancing guidelines. In-person execution is not necessary.
To assist state and local officials during this time, the OII has created “Surety Recommendations and Best Practices.” This communication is intended to provide information to assist state and local governments modify practices to avoid in-person execution of construction bonds and commercial surety bonds. You can read those guidelines HERE.
OHIO EPA TO HOST VIRTUAL COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE CONFERENCE
The Ohio EPA will be hosting a series of webinars for their virtual Compliance Assistance Conference 2020, which begins on September 21. Local government will have the opportunity to hear from Ohio EPA Director Laurie Stevenson, participated in interactive regulatory presentations and panel discussions, and meet virtually for a Q&A with compliance staff. You can read more about what the conference will offer and register HERE.