OML UPDATE AT A GLANCE
- Last week, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 226,007 initial jobless claims, which is the second straight week that more than 200,000 new claims were filed by Ohioans. The total number of initial claims filed in Ohio over the last three weeks is now 696,519.
- According to the Ohio Auditor of State's office, officials may electronically sign official documents. You can find an expanded explanation of this answer in this FAQ from the Auditor of State's office HERE.
- This week, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor issued guidance for Mayors' Courts to help ensure the public still has access to the courts while also minimizing the risk of transmitting coronavirus. You can ready that guidance HERE.
- The Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) has made the decision to defer July 2020 loan repayments for six months, making the next effective payment date for all active OPWC loans January 29, 2021. This is to give applicants flexibility and allow for ease of processing. You can find more information and download a July 2020 waiver letter HERE.
- The Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) released an order authorizing Ohio utilities to obtain Federal Paycheck Protection Program loans without first seeking PUCO approval. The program authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to retain their employees during the COVID -19 crisis. Additionally, the order extends by 30 days the allowed suspension of requirements that may impose a service continuity hardship on residential and business customers, or create unnecessary risks of social contact. You can read the order in full HERE.
- The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) directors have approved Gov. DeWine's $1.6 billion proposed dividend payment to employers to soften the economic damage of COVID-19. Local governments will receive $200 million in dividends.
- The 2020 OML Income Tax Conference scheduled for July has been cancelled. We are considering alternative forums later in the year and we will alert our members if and when the conference is rescheduled.
GOV. DEWINE ANNOUNCES MORE MEASURES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC
- As of Friday afternoon, Ohio has 5,878 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 231 deaths, 1,755 hospitalizations, 548 ICU admissions.
- Since Ohio's first Stay at Home order went into effect on March 22, the state has seen an approximate 50% drop in reported child abuse and neglect cases because those who typically report suspicions of abuse - such as teachers, coaches, child care providers, school counselors and nurses - aren't seeing children every day. Please report any suspected abuse or neglect by calling 855-OH-CHILD.
- Through the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance, 19 manufacturers have partnered with three hospital groups to begin large scale production of face shields for Ohio. 750,000 to 1 million face shields will be added to the Ohio Department of Health stockpile over the next five weeks. Thank you to all who responded to our request for an estimate of your local government's need of the production of face masks. We provided those responses to the administration.
UPDATE ON FEDERAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESPONSE
The Federal Reserve has created a Municipal Liquidity Facility to purchase state and municipal debt, and has announced it will purchase $500 billion of short-term notes, meaning those with less than 2 years in maturity. The Municipal Liquidity Facility provides direct access to all states, cities with a population of greater than one million residents (10 cities), and counties with more than two million residents (15 counties).
The primary purpose of this facility is to aid the "cash crunch" that many states will feel from Congress pushing back the tax filing deadline to July 15th. These funds can be used for "potential reductions of tax and other revenues or increases in expenses related to or resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic."
The reason this is substantial is that while the liquidity facility only initially appears to be available to the 10 largest cities, 15 counties, and 50 states, those local governments "may use the proceeds of the notes purchased by the [fund] to purchase similar notes issued by, or otherwise to assist, political subdivisions and instrumentalities of the relevant State, City, or County for the purposes enumerated in the prior sentence."
As an example. Ohio can participate in the liquidity facility, which would allow a city like
which has a population of 19,000 residents, to issue a "similar note" to the one Ohio sold to the Federal Reserve. Ohio could then purchase the note from Twinsburg, thereby providing liquidity to the
The reason behind this is that there are too many different types of municipalities and other local governments to make the facility available to all while have it also function seamlessly. Allowing states to purchase notes from their own political subdivisions makes the distribution of funds more efficient.
While the Federal Reserve did not issue a start date for the facility, purchasing will cease on September 30, 2020.
Currently on Capitol Hill, a debate is ongoing about providing an additional $250 billion in small business loans since the U.S. Treasury voiced concerns that the initial amount provided in the CARES Act might not be enough to meet the growing demand of businesses.
Leading Democrats are asking for additional funding for hospitals, an additional $150 billion for states and localities, increased benefits for SNAP, and are asking that part of the $250 billion be directed to targeted groups. Republican leadership is pushing back that some of the programs that Democrats are looking to increase funding to have not spent any money yet, mainly referring to the Coronavirus Relief Fund that helps states and local governments. Treasury is supposed to send the money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund by April 24.
However, as we have mentioned previously, the Coronavirus Relief Fund only provides direct funds to municipalities with a population threshold over 500,000. As a result, the National League of Cities (NLC) sent a letter to the White House urging the administration to ensure smaller communities that cannot access direct aid through the CARES Act receive funding in the next $150 billion tranche of aid to states and localities. In the letter, NLC also asked the administration to make sure no population threshold is put in place that would prevent smaller cities and villages from receiving direct aid. You can read the letter HERE
A bill that would send funds directly to those smaller municipalities is the Coronavirus Community Relief Act.The bill provides $250 billion in aid from the federal government to local governments with a population of less than 500,000. The CARES Act only provided the 36 largest cities in the nation with access to direct federal aid. This bill creates a path to receive direct federal aid for the other 99.82% of municipalities that were shut out of the CARES Act, providing direct relief to the hundreds of millions of Americans that live outside those 36 largest cities.
Additionally, while the CARES Act limits use of funds to cover "necessary expenditures", the Coronavirus Community Relief Act allows units of local government to use allocated funds to cover losses. Cities and villages will need federal assistance to endure through the economic distress that will result from increased costs and decreased tax revenue because of COVID-19. This change will help local communities through upcoming revenue shortfalls.
The Coronavirus Community Relief Act also provides necessary flexibility for distributing funds to other local governments, unlike the CARES Act. For example, if one city needs more funds than what it was allocated while another city does not need all of its funding, those funds can be reallocated among cities within that state.
Finally, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act allows more time for a local government to request funds. This will especially lift the burden of a "shot clock" in the CARES Act from smaller cities and villages.
We encourage our members to call on their Congressional delegation and urge them to cosponsor the Coronavirus Community Relief Act.
You can find the contact information for Ohio's Congressional delegation HERE
. To take additional action in urging the federal government to allocate direct funds to all municipalities, click HERE
for a link to NLC's action page.
Another bill impacting local governments will be introduced next week. The impending legislation would repeal the language in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that bars governmental institutions from receiving tax credits for providing paid sick leave and paid emergency family leave. W
our members to call on your members of Congress to support the legislation as well.
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 http://www.omlohio.org/167/Coronavirus-Disease-Resource-Page.