OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
- Gov. DeWine has announced that a new stay-at-home order will go into effect midnight on Monday, April 6, once the old order expires, and extend until midnight on Friday, May 1. This order is similar to the current order with a few noted changes. You can find a copy of the amended order HERE.
- The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services reported an all-time high for the second week in a row with 272,117 initial claims for unemployment compensation. Over the past two weeks, Ohio has issued over $45 million in unemployment compensation payments to more than 108,000 workers. On the national level, The U.S. Department of Labor reported over 6.6 million initial claims this week. This is an increase from more than 3.3 million initial claims last week.
- The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) is distributing $8.8 million in federal funds from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to Ohio's 12 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) across the state to meet the growing demand for meal assistance by older Ohioans impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. The funds will support meals programming for older Ohioans at highest risk for malnutrition and hunger.
- The Brookings Institute published an article this week detailing how Ohio's larger cities will experience the most immediate fiscal impact from the coronavirus's effects on the economy. The top five cities in their list of municipalities across the country that will have the most immediate economic impact from the coronavirus are all Ohio cities. You can find a link to the article HERE and read more about this issue in our article below.
DEWINE ADMINISTRATION TAKES FURTHER MEASURES TO COMBAT ONGOING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
This week, Gov. DeWine announced the following measures aimed at addressing several of the myriad issues created by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic:
- As of Friday afternoon, the Ohio Department of Health reports 3,312 cases of coronavirus and 91 deaths. Those cases have resulted in 895 hospitalizations and 288 intensive care unit admissions.
- An economic advisory board has been created to gather experts that will advise the DeWine administration as it focuses on economic recovery moving forward.
- Lt. Governor Husted announced a website developed by the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation created to match essential businesses with Ohioans who are able and willing to work as an essential employee during the coronavirus crisis. Both essential businesses and those seeking employment can visit Coronavirus.Ohio.gov/JobSearch to post positions and search for jobs.
- The Governor has also established the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to combat COVID-19. The alliance is a collaborative public-private partnership that will coordinate efforts to provide health care workers and first responders the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need. Interested manufacturers can visit RepurposingProject.com.
- Gov. DeWine has also signed an executive order requesting that landlords suspend rent payments for small businesses. The order also requests that landlords implement a moratorium of evictions for no less than 90 days. Additionally, the order requests that commercial mortgage loan lenders to provide an opportunity for forbearance for at least 90 days.
- The Ohio National Guard has been activated by the Governor to help foodbanks distribute food and supplies as well as help organize an assessment of healthcare resources across Ohio, determining what additional personnel, supplies and facilities will be necessary.
MUNICIPALITIES CONTINUE TO SEEK CLARIFICATION ON "CARES" ACT LANGUAGE
In our member Call-to-Action yesterday, we reported that municipalities across the nation are seeking clarification regarding the relief coming from the Coronavirus Response Fund for states and local governments created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Specifically, due to language that could be interpreted as restricting, local governments await guidance from the U.S. Treasury on how those funds will get to local governments with populations under 500,000.
There is an additional question as far as the Coronavirus Response Fund is concerned. One of those questions pertains as to whether or not a local government can meet the bill's certification requirements that the use of the funds be consistent with the statute if it does not have a detailed implementation plan.
The U.S. Treasury has stated that while the Treasury's Inspector General will conduct an audit to determine that the funds are being used in line with the statute, there will be flexibility in how the funds can be used. Additionally, the Treasury Department will develop a form or form letter so a local government can outline the purposed use of funds that will then be uploaded through a portal that will also be created by the Treasury Department.
There is also concern about the possibility of "double counting". The question arises if a city is located entirely within the county, who is allowed to count the residents within that city? Many are wondering if those residents will be double counted since cities and villages provide a different set of services than the ones provided by counties. The U.S. Treasury said the counting will start with the lowest level of government and work up from there.
Finally, there have been some clarifications from the federal government on a few other aspects of these funds. According to the U.S. Treasury, the
of local governments will be determined from the latest Census Bureau Population Estimate program, which will entail 2019 and 2018 data. This means some cities that have grown but came under a population of 500,000 in 2018 may not receive direct funding. Additionally, the U.S. Treasury has said the funds will be on their way to states and local governments by April 24.
Clarence Anthony, the Executive Director and CEO of the National League of Cities, sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin seeking clarification on the statute. You can ready that letter HERE
We will continue to keep our members aware as the federal government provides answers on these vital funds that will help ensure Ohio's cities and villages can continue to provide excellent services in this time of crisis.
BROOKINGS INSTITUTE REPORT SUGGESTS OHIO'S LARGER MUNICIPALITIES WILL EXPERIENCE MOST IMMEDIATE FISCAL IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS
An article released by the Brookings Institute showed that Ohio's larger cities will experience the most immediate fiscal impact from the coronavirus's effects on the economy.
The article details how America's "heartland" cities will generally be more quickly impacted and overall, hit harder by the economic effects of COVID-19 due to the increased likelihood that they are dependent on "elastic" revenue sources, meaning tax sources that more quickly respond to changes in the economy. Another important component is if the city's predominant economy is made up of industries that were hit hard by unemployment caused by the coronavirus.
Across the nation, 50% to 70% of a city's revenue is generated by taxes, whether they be income taxes, sales taxes or property taxes. Of these, Ohio's cities are especially unique. Ohio municipalities are wholly reliant on the income tax as their primary source of revenue. 70% to 80% of Ohio's cities' and villages' general operating funds is revenue generated through their municipal income tax. No other state affords municipalities the ability to generate revenue locally as Ohio does, which will be more impactful as the economy bottoms out and the recovery is currently unknown.
The City of Columbus is cited in the article as an example of a municipality that will quickly feel significant fiscal impact from the pandemic. According to the article, 76% of the city's general revenue is generated by the income tax and 16% of regional employment is in what is termed "highly vulnerable" industries. Additionally, in a chart detailing the cities across the nation with the most immediate economic impacts from the coronavirus, the top five cities in the list are all Ohio municipalities: Columbus, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Toledo and Cleveland. The City of Akron also appears as number 13 on the list.
The federal government has said it will provide financial assistance to the nation's cities, including direct distributions from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. However, as mentioned in our article above, cities that don't meet the population threshold will need to get distributions from the state at the state's discretion. Because of this, the article echos the ask of the National League of Cities (NLC) that cities with substantially lower population thresholds should also receive direct funding. In the meantime, the article also suggests that states and cities coordinate to consider how components like tax structure and the number of high-risk workers should play a role in determining how funding is distributed.
As Ohio's municipalities continue to navigate this unprecedented crisis, we will need continued support at both the federal and state level in order to ensure Ohioans continue to receive the quality services our cities and villages provide.
OHIO EPA ALLOWS REQUESTS FOR COMPLIANCE FLEXIBILITY DUE TO CORONAVIRUS
With the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Governor's declaration of a state of emergency in Ohio, Ohio EPA is aware that regulated entities may be impacted from a reduced workforce necessary to maintain normal operations at some facilities.
All regulated entities remain obligated to take all available actions necessary to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and permit requirements to protect the health and safety of Ohioans and the environment. However, in the instance where regulated entities will have an unavoidable noncompliance situation directly due to impact from the coronavirus, an email box has been established by Ohio EPA.
This email box will accept requests for the Director of Ohio EPA to consider providing regulatory flexibility, where possible, to assist entities in alternative approaches to maintaining compliance, such as extending reporting deadlines, consideration of waiving late fees and exercising enforcement discretion.
Regulated entities should email
with specific information related to enforcement discretion requests. This email box will be monitored daily and Ohio EPA will work diligently to expeditiously review and respond to incoming requests from regulated entities.
The email should at a minimum include the following:
- The specific regulatory or permit requirement which cannot be complied with
- A concise statement describing the circumstances preventing compliance
- The anticipated duration of time that the noncompliance will persist
- The mitigative measures that will be taken to protect public health and the environment during the need for enforcement discretion
- A central point of contact for the regulated entity, including an email address and phone number
Where alternative compliance options are authorized by Ohio EPA, regulated entities must maintain records adequate to document activities related to the noncompliance and details of the regulated entity's best efforts to comply.
OPERS ISSUES GUIDANCE FOR RE-EMPLOYED RETIREES
Due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, Ohio Public Employment Retirement System (
) retirees have been returning to public employment to assist with efforts in battling the pandemic. This has raised questions regarding what impacts there will be on the health care coverage available to those returning retirees. OPERS has issued guidance to answer these questions.
As a general rule, an OPERS retiree is permitted to return to public employment after retirement and, if health care coverage is available to comparable employees, the retiree must enroll in the public employer's coverage. In this instance, OPERS becomes a secondary payor of coverage if the retiree chooses to remain enrolled. OPERS would encourage employers concerned with providing health care to offer this coverage to any re-employed retirees.
In the instance where the employer's healthcare coverage is not offered, reemployed retirees are not without alternatives regarding the healthcare coverage available through OPERS. First, as stated above, they are required to enroll in the public employer's health care coverage if such coverage is available for comparable positions. In the absence of employer coverage (or coverage obtained through a spouse or other alternative), these individuals may be enrolled in the OPERS reemployed retiree self-insured healthcare plan, which is available to retirees both pre-Medicare and those who are Medicare eligible. In both instances, OPERS subsidizes the retiree's premium for the coverage. OPERS subsidizes 51-90% of the pre-Medicare premium ($1,380/month) and the Medicare-eligible premium ($457).
For retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare, participation in the OPERS reemployed retiree self-insured plan is no different from participation on the current OPERS self-insured plan. Premiums, deductibles, and copayments are the same for both self-insured plans and each carryover to the other plan for the current plan year.
For retirees who are Medicare eligible, OPERS provides a health reimbursement account (HRA) to fund qualifying medical expenses. If an OPERS retiree returns to public employment after retirement, the retiree is viewed as an active employee and can no longer participate in the HRA. This is due to the fact that the HRA is a retiree only plan and, to maintain compliance with federal regulations, it cannot include any non-retired members (re-employed retirees are considered active members).
A Medicare-eligible reemployed retiree is faced with a choice upon reemployment: (1) remain in the HRA but no monthly allowance will be deposited and no reimbursements will be paid for claims accrued during the period of reemployment; (2) choose to participate in the OPERS reemployed retiree self-insured plan with a monthly premium ranging from $46-$224.
If the retiree chooses the latter option, the funds accrued in the HRA will remain intact during the reemployment period and will be available after the reemployment ends. When the reemployment ends, monthly deposits to the HRA will resume and reimbursement for claims incurred after the reemployment can begin again.
The information above has come directly from OPERS. Any members with questions can send them to OPERS directly.
ATTORNEY GENERAL YOST ALLOWS THOUSANDS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT CADETS AND RETIREES TO SERVE
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has directed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) to expedite the final examinations of about 300 police cadets and allow them to quickly bolster the ranks of law enforcement in Ohio.
"We have to do everything legally, and safely, within our power to get officers and deputies on
the streets of our state," General Yost said. "Our brave men and women in uniform will be exposed to the coronavirus, and we need to make sure there are reinforcements should a worst-case scenario materialize."
Also, General Yost is working with local agencies to create a pathway for recently retired law
enforcement officers in good standing to return to the streets of Ohio. This pathway includes
allowing returning officers one year to complete their required training from the date they are
rehired. More than 1,000 peace officers retire each year in Ohio.
OPOTA staff is also working with local agencies to determine which required trainings retired
officers will need to complete to be compliant with the OPTOA certification. Those trainings will be moved to OPOTA and will be available through the online training portal. Any rehired law enforcement officers will be able to utilize OPOTA's online training portal to access the required trainings.
With the growing number of infected Ohioans, and knowing the risk of communal spread,
communities must do everything they can to protect their residents. Given that uncertainty, the
need for ample law enforcement officers to protect Ohioans is critical. Unfortunately, officers
are at high risk of becoming ill from the coronavirus due to their frequent interactions with the
Yost's team will devise a plan that will safely test those officers who have completed their required training but have not taken the final exam. Preliminary plans have the test being offered on different days, allowing fewer people to be in the same room during the examination, and will put approximately 300 law enforcement officers in action to serve and
protect the public.
OPOTA will review on a case-by-case basis a provisional certification for a cadet depending on
the completion of certain critical training. This approval will be in consultation with the cadet's
basic training academy.
"This pandemic is stretching the thin blue line even thinner," Yost said. "Now more than ever,
we need all hands on deck."
OPOTA has also made available online resources for law enforcement officers who have
retired within the past four years and who want to recommission and help in the field. The
necessary online training will provide officers with a course in the required subject areas so
they may be OPOTA-compliant.
LOCAL LEADERS CAN UTILIZE RESOURCES FROM THE LEAGUE'S COVID-19 RESOURCE PAGE
We would like to remind our members about our resource page for municipal officials, where they can access samples of policies from municipalities around the state as well as state and federal updates, declarations and other resources. You can find our webpage at