OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the most important things you need to know from this past week:
- The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) will be hosting a webinar on July 22 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. to discuss the Coronavirus Relief Fund Local Assistance program as a result of HB 481. This session will provide an update on recent guidance from the U.S. Treasury and discuss examples of eligible uses of funds. You can register for the webinar HERE. In addition, OBM has released an updated guidance/FAQ on the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) that you can access HERE.
- This week, the League took part in a joint press conference announcing the release of a report from Policy Matters Ohio outlining the budgetary challenges Ohio's local governments are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the report is to urge Ohio's U.S. Senators Portman and Brown to ensure unrestricted federal aid for local governments is included in the next phase of coronavirus relief funding. You can read the report HERE and watch a recording of the press conference HERE. Read more in the article below.
- Gov. DeWine gave a special address this week in response to the steady increase in COVID-19 cases in Ohio. The Governor implored Ohioans to take appropriate action to reverse the rapidly-increasing spread of the virus and spoke to the efficacy of facial coverings to protect themselves and others. He also renewed the call to socially distance and limit public gatherings.
- This week, Gov. DeWine signed SB 4, which contains one year of appropriation authority for the State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP) including Small Government and Emergency programs, the Revolving Loan Program (RLP) and Clean Ohio (Round 15). More information on the SCIP and RLP project agreements will be available on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) website HERE.
LEAGUE JOINS POLICY MATTERS OHIO/ MAYORS ALLIANCE IN REPORT: ADDITIONAL FEDERAL AID NEEDED TO OFFSET COVID-19 IMPACT ON LOCAL BUDGETS
A new report has been released by Policy Matters Ohio outlining the budgetary challenges Ohio's local governments are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The League's Executive Director Kent Scarrett joined Policy Matters Ohio, the Ohio Mayors Alliance and several municipal leaders in a joint press conference to announce the release of the report. They also reiterated to Ohio's U.S. Senators Portman and Brown the need for Congress to allocate additional federal aid and ease restrictions on current CARES Act funds and any future federal relief so municipalities can fill budget shortfalls.
During the press conference, League Executive Director Kent Scarrett explained that while not all local governments have experienced the same amount of COVID-19 expenditures, all municipalities are experiencing steep revenue loss because of the pandemic's impact on the municipal income tax. For that reason, he emphasized that future support from the federal government will provide not only the ability of municipalities to keep residents safe, but also to keep essential workers on the job and continue to support local economies.
Several of Ohio's municipal leaders took the opportunity during the press conference to outline the challenges their municipalities are facing. Athens Mayor Steve Patterson addressed one of the issues his city has faced due to the cost of providing water utilities while residents have been unable to pay for those services. Since Ohio's ban on utility disconnection has been lifted, residents now face having their water shut off. Despite this urgent need, Athens cannot use CARES Act to offset utility costs to prevent citizens from having their water shut off.
The City of Cambridge faces a similar challenge. According to League Board President Sharon Cassler, Cambridge has $301,000 in CARES Act revenues; however, it cannot use those funds for the $500,000 budget shortfall facing the city. The funds must be spent in a tight time frame as local governments must return unused funds to the state by October 15 for redistribution, while the state will return remaining funds to the federal government at the end of the year.
City of Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney said his prior service as the city auditor taught him how heavily dependent Ohio's municipalities are on income tax. He stressed that it is important for Ohio's U.S. Senators to recognize that Ohio is unique because of the state's municipal income tax structure and how because of this, Ohio especially needs advocacy for more federal funding to ensure cities and villages can avoid layoffs, keep basic services running and plan for their future.
The report contains valuable information with local examples demonstrating that sharp declines in revenue have affected all Ohio cities, regardless of size, and draws attention to the impact budget shortfalls have on rural municipalities. According to the report, "cuts to public sector jobs deepen the recession, particularly in Ohio's rural areas where jobs in schools and local government are often a mainstay of the economy. While the budget shortfalls of big cities have received national attention, fiscal crisis in smaller cities and rural areas will cause deep and lasting damage."
Ohio's economy cannot recover without additional unrestricted federal aid to cities and villages. As City of Kettering Mayor Don Patterson states in the report, "Municipal stabilization funding will provide a critical bridge for cities to help us through the economic downturn, and it will buy time for revenues to climb back. Without this stopgap, cities will have to make deep cuts that will have reverberating impacts across our regional economies, and it will take us longer to recover once this public health threat subsides."
This report makes clear the need to urge Ohio's U.S. Senators Portman and Brown for more federal aid without restrictions to ensure an economic recovery for our state. We encourage our members to use the valuable local information in this report and continue to call on the Senate to include unrestricted federal aid for local governments in the next phase of coronavirus relief funding.
CITIES MUST SUBMIT INDIVIDUAL PROOF OF CLAIM IN PURDUE PHARMA BANKRUPTCY CASE
Recently, cities in Ohio that are participating in the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case have received notice of a deadline to file a proof of claim by July 30, 2020, as well as an invitation to participate in a consolidated proof of claim. The League reached out to the Ohio Attorney General's office to ask if the Attorney General represents the municipalities in this case or if those cities are required to file an individual proof of claim.
The Attorney General's office clarified that their office is not representing the cities on this matter. While the Attorney General's office plans to file a proof of claim on behalf of the state and state agencies, they do not have individualized claim information for all of the entities that have filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma. Therefore, if a city wishes to file their own proof of claim, they would need to do that separately through their counsel.
The Perdue Pharma bankruptcy case is separate from the multidistrict litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors that includes Ohio and 279 Ohio local governments. As our members may remember, this past March, 85% of Ohio's population voted to sign on to the "One Ohio" Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to allow Ohio and all local governments to jointly approach settlement negotiations and ensure all local governments benefit from the prospective settlement, not just the ones in the litigation.
UPDATE ON OHIO COVID-19 RESPONSE
- As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 70,601 cases of coronavirus, 3,103 deaths, 9,324 hospitalizations and 2,280 ICU admissions.
Counties Upgraded to Red Alert Level 3:
- The Ohio Department of Health has designated 19 counties as being in a Red Alert Level 3 Public Emergency as defined by the Ohio Public Health Advisory System:
- Upgraded to Level 3: Athens, Allen, Delaware, Licking, Lucas, Richland, Scioto, and Union.
- Continuing at Level 3: Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Montgomery, Pickaway, Summit, and Wood.
- Downgraded to Level 2: Trumbull.
- Athens County is also on Ohio's Watch List because it is closely nearing Purple Alert Level 4. Butler, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton counties were removed from the Watch List but the threat of exposure and spread remains high.
- New counties upgraded to Red Alert Level 3 will be mandated to begin wearing masks in public beginning at 6 p.m. on July 17, 2020. Mask mandates will remain in effect in all counties continuing in Red Alert Level 3. Residents in Trumbull County are no longer required to wear masks in public; however, they are strongly encouraged to do so.
Updates on Health care and PPE:
- Gov. DeWine signed an executive order to extend and improve emergency rules that will provide additional flexibilities to allow health care professionals to deliver services via telehealth. Through the emergency rules, the executive order permits the use of audio, video, and even text messaging to allow people to access critical health care services while remaining socially distant and safe. This rule will apply to a variety of healthcare services, including critical mental health and addiction services.
- The Ohio Development Services Agency awarded $20 million in grants to 68 Ohio manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE). The Ohio PPE Retooling and Reshoring grants provide up to $500,000 to small and medium-sized manufacturers to expand production or convert their facility to start producing PPE. The projects are expected to create 829 new jobs and retain 1,133 existing jobs. More than half of the awards will help small businesses with less than 25 employees. Ohio small businesses can learn more about other resources available through Office of Small Business Relief and Development at www.Coronavirus.Ohio.Gov/BusinessHelp.
Updates on Jobs and Unemployment:
- Lt. Governor Husted also announced that next week, in an effort to help Ohio's small businesses and their workers operate in a safe environment, JobsOhio and its six network partners will distribute 15,000 PPE toolkits, for a total of 1.5 million 3-ply masks, 150,000 KN95 masks, and 15,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. This initiative brings together partners at the local level as well as partners in the chamber of commerce and urban leagues across the state. These kits have already been allocated to small businesses across the state.
Ohioans filed 35,422 initial jobless claims last week, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) statistics reported to the U.S. Department of Labor today. Over the last 17 weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $5.2 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 747,000 Ohioans. Of the more than 1 million applications the agency has received, about 94% have been processed, with about 6% pending. In addition, ODJFS has issued more than $4.1 billion in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) payments to more than 449,000 PUA claimants