OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the most important things you need to know from the past few days:
- The Ohio Municipal League sent a letter to Ohio's Congressional delegation requesting a phase 4 of the federal aid package in response to COVID-19 and that it includes direct funding to all Ohio's municipalities as they continue to serve on the front lines of the ongoing battle against the coronavirus epidemic. You can read that letter HERE.
- The Ohio Municipal Attorney's Association (OMAA) has provided information regarding the ability of a municipality to declare an emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what the impact would be for a community along with sample ordinance language. You can read the summary HERE and the full document HERE .
- The DeWine Administration has formed the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance (OMA) to respond to the state's shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically face masks. The OMA is requesting that communities give an estimate of how much PPE they need by tomorrow, Thursday April 9. Learn more about the request and how you can respond in the article below.
- If approved by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors, the BWC will send up to $1.6 billion in dividends to Ohio employers this spring. $1.4 billion will be sent to private employers, while $200 million will go to local governments.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded over $1.3 billion to 1,387 health centers as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health centers can use the funds to help communities prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19 while maintaining or increasing health capacity and staffing levels. You can access the full list of award recipients in Ohio HERE .
- The Ohio Attorney General's office has released a website that contains a formalized process for individuals, including local law enforcement, to forward tips regarding nonessential businesses not complying with Ohio's Stay at Home order to their office. The office also created an FAQ on changes to the open meetings law for local governments. You can find more on both in the article below.
- The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) has released preliminary data on March 2020 revenue collections. Total General Revenue Fund tax receipts finished the month $159.4 million (-10.5%) below estimate, while total fiscal-year-to-date tax receipts through March exceed estimate by $89.5 million (0.5%) and are $362.0 million (2.2%) over total tax receipts through the same period last fiscal year.
DEWINE ADMINISTRATION CONTINUES COVID-19 RESPONSE
- As of Wednesday afternoon, Ohio has 5,148 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 193 deaths, 1,495 hospitalizations and 472 ICU admissions.
- The DeWine Administration's extended Stay at Home order went into effect midnight on Monday, April 6 and extends until midnight on Friday, May 1. This order is similar to current order with a few noted changes. The new order includes provisions that:
- creates a dispute resolution panel to determine cases where similar businesses are being treated differently within different health districts or counties;
- requires retail businesses to establish a number of people that are allowed in the business at one time;
- mandates retail stores establish lines for entering the store to ensure people stay 6 ft away from each other;
- does not prohibit funerals and weddings;
- closes campgrounds, swimming pools, day camps and residential camps;
- prohibits both adult and child organized sports;
allows state parks to stay open.
- Under the extended Stay at Home order, travelers arriving in Ohio are instructed to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days. Visitors displaying symptoms of coronavirus are instructed not to travel to Ohio at all. This does not apply to persons who commute to and from Ohio as part of their daily job.
- The Governor is encouraging Ohioans to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendation to wear cloth face masks in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He has encouraged employers to allow employees to wear masks as well.
- Lt. Gov. Husted announced the creation of the Office of Small Business Relief within the Ohio Development Services Agency (DAS) to identify ways to provide support to Ohio's small businesses. You can find more information at https://businesshelp.ohio.gov/
- Lt. Gov. Husted has also announced that Ohio is working with providers to locate public hotspots Ohioans can use in areas where they may not otherwise have home internet access. A list of hotspot finders and locations by provider is available at Coronavirus.Ohio.Gov/BusinessHelp under the "Individuals and Families" tab.
- The Ohio Liquor Control Commission passed an emergency rule allowing establishments with an existing on-premises liquor permit to sell or deliver alcohol, including high-proof liquor in limited quality, for off-premise consumption. Patrons ordering carryout or delivering at Ohio businesses will be able to order up to two prepackaged drinks per meal. All drinks must be closed and remain closed during the transport back home and must be consumed inside of the home.
COVID-19 Response in Correctional Institutions:
- Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) Corrections Officer John Dawson, who worked at the Marion Correctional Institution, has died of coronavirus. He is the first correctional officer to die of the virus since COVID-19 was first discovered in several correctional facilities in Ohio.
- Members of the Ohio National Guard are being deployed by Gov. DeWine to the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton to assist with a COVID-19 outbreak that has killed three inmates and infected more. Additionally, 10 Ohio prisoners tested positive for COVID-19, with five each in Marion and Pickaway counties. 27 Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) staff have also tested positive at four facilities. Most of the cases are at Marion Correctional Institution.
- Gov. DeWine is asking the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) to consider early-release for approximately 141 inmates from minimal security facilities to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Eligible inmates have a pending release date on or before July 13, 2020 and were not convicted of violent offenses. These inmates also did not have prior incarcerations in Ohio, inter-state offenses, warrants or detainers, serious prison rule violations in the last five years, nor were they denied judicial release in the past.
- Governor DeWine is also asking the CIIC to consider early-release for 26 inmates who are 60 years or older and have one or more chronic health condition that makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Inmates were screened with the same criteria listed above. Habitual offenders with two or more prior convictions were also eliminated.
Resources for local communities:
- Municipal leaders can help share Gov. DeWine and Dr. Acton's important message with your networks, friends, family, and various communication channels by posting the attached logos on social media using #InThisTogetherOhio and #StayHomeOhio.
- Employers can find an updated COVID-19 checklist for businesses and employers HERE, including information on the DeWine Administration's "Ohio Find It Here" campaign to help residents support local businesses.
UPDATE ON FEDERAL RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Congress is continuing work on a fourth federal aid bill in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. House and the Senate seem to be approaching a deal on the upcoming bill. While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had previously called for a broader package that would include infrastructure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that he found that proposal too broad. Pelosi has since suggested passing a bill similar to the recently-enacted CARES Act and putting aid for infrastructure in a later bill.
The National League of Cities (NLC) has been lobbying legislative offices on Capital Hill on behalf of the nations cities. You can read their requests for a fourth aid package HERE
Just this week, U.S. House member Joe Nuguse of Colorado introduced a bill to provide a separate $250 billion stand-alone fund for COVID-19 related costs for communities with fewer than 500,000 residents. The bill has 78 original cosponsors, and more will be added Friday. Included as cosponsors are Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH-13).
While the CARES Act provides funds directly to units of local governments with a population that exceeds 500,000, this bill, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, is a response to the short comings of the CARES Act in providing funds to smaller communities.
We want to thank the members of Ohio's Congressional delegation that have signed on to the bill thus far, and we ask the remaining members of the Ohio Congressional delegation to support this important relief effort directly to Ohio's municipalities.
our members to call their members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Coronavirus Community Relief Act. The more members that sign on, the better chance that it or similar legislation has of being adopted in a fourth relief package.
NLC is also working closely on a soon-to-be-introduced bill that would provide tax credits to governmental employers who provide paid sick leave and paid emergency family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Again, we encourage our members to reach out to the House members from your state to ask them to support this bill once it is introduced. We will share an any new information any legislation as soon as we get it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released an FAQ on grants issued in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency to provide information to applicants for, and recipients of, EPA grants and cooperative agreements. You can read that FAQ HERE
Additionally, the Department of Labor released guidance on explaining paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Among other things, this guidance broadens the definition of "emergency responder" to include "public works personnel" who may be excluded from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA. This will help small water systems, among other entities, who have just a few essential employees. NLC has created a FAQ on this, which you can read HERE
Finally, the NLC has posted a blog about the funds that will be coming to local communities as a result of the CARES Act and how to keep it there. You can read that blog HERE
URGENT REQUEST: LOCAL GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT TO ADDRESS PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) SHORTAGE
Ohio's municipalities are being asked to immediately respond to a request for an estimated number of how many personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically face masks, cities and villages will need for their communities. These estimates are needed by this Thursday, April 9. You can let us know your estimate for PPE needs by responding to this bulletin. You can access the specs for the face masks HERE
The request has come from the DeWine Administration, which has created the
to match those who need personal protective equipment (
) with those who can manufacturer PPE through the Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19.
The Alliance needs to know how many loop masks local governments statewide would take at $2 per mask for the upcoming two-month period from each local government's best-informed estimate. The state will be paying for the masks, not municipalities. Additionally, this initial
will not be regarded as a commitment of delivery. There will be subsequent communication over the next few days once demand has been established to drive finance decisions.
OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE ISSUES WEBSITE FOR ENFORCEMENT OF ESSENTIAL-ONLY BUSINESSES AND FAQ ON OPEN MEETINGS LAW
The Ohio General Assembly recently passed legislation whose wide-ranging provisions address
challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the state's emergency declaration related to the virus' spread. Included in amended Substitute House Bill 197 are some temporary changes to Ohio'
Meetings Act, effective until the end of the declared emergency or Dec. 1, 2020. A summary of these provisions is available on the Ohio Attorney General's website, which you can access HERE
Since the initial distribution of the summary, the Attorney General's Office has received many questions from local governmental officials and the general public regarding the temporary changes. In response, they are sharing their answers to the questions asked most frequently. As always, the Attorney General's office suggests that local public bodies consult with their respective legal counsel for guidance on this and other
1. Do the changes to Ohio's Open Meetings Act prevent a local public body from continuing to hold all or some of its public meetings or public hearings on an in-
basis and in the presence of the public?
There is nothing in the legislation preventing a local public body from continuing to conduct all or some of its public meetings or public hearings with its members present in-person or to hold such gatherings in an open setting permitting members of the public to be physically present. It is important to note that, except where the bill made specific changes to the requirements of the law, the provisions of Ohio Revised Code 121.22 related to open meetings - including those regarding notice, the taking and maintenance of minutes, and limitations on executive sessions - continue to apply.
But the emergency declarations issued by Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health do impose limitations on public gatherings and the number of people permitted to congregate. These declarations have been modified occasionally in substantive respects relevant to public meetings, and additional changes may be forthcoming. In addition, public health officials have provided guidance on maintaining "
" during this pandemic.
As a result, before holding an in-person meeting, a public body should give due consideration the limitations and guidance and appropriate concern for the health and welfare of the members of the body and their constituents.
2. Can a public body conduct a public meeting or hearing using audio teleconferencing or must video conferencing be used?
The bill specifically permits a public body to conduct meetings via teleconference, video conference or any similar electronic technology. Thus, a public body may choose to use audio-only
Of course, the law requires that access to any such meetings be afforded through some mechanism that makes it generally available, including teleconferencing; live streaming via the internet; or broadcasting on local radio, cable television or public-access stations. When using audio-only teleconferencing, the public body should ensure that speakers are identified and individual votes announced verbally so that listeners can determine what each member is saying and how he/she is voting.
3. What type of notice should be given if a public body plans to hold a virtual meeting?
Absent an emergency situation, the law requires that notice of a virtual meeting be provided to the public and to media outlets that have requested notice of the body's meetings at least 24 hours before the meeting. The notice must include the technique being used to conduct the meeting and the method of access available to the media and the public. A public body is encouraged to provide notice in the same way that it has provided notice in the past regarding additions to the content of the notice and its
4. If a public body can't arrange to have a meeting as scheduled or a quorum is unavailable, may a public meeting be postponed or canceled?
Nothing in the law prohibits a public body from postponing or canceling a public meeting for any reason.
Notice of the cancellation or postponement should be given as soon as possible to to the media and members of the public who have requested notice of the body's meetings, and through any other means of notice that the public body commonly uses. As long as a public body has no pressing business requiring it to meet as scheduled, a meeting may be postponed or canceled.
5. Is there a difference in how a public body must afford public access to a virtual "hearing"
versus a virtual
Yes. The law defines a meeting of a public body as a prearranged gathering of a majority of the
members of the body for discussing and deliberating upon public business. A public hearing is a specific type of gathering of the body, one designed to yield public input on a matter of interest to the general constituency or to particular stakeholders. A number of provisions in the Ohio Revised Code require a variety of public bodies to hold public hearings on specific matters. Under the bill, both public meetings and public hearings may be conducted virtually. In the case of virtual public meetings, the public body need only provide public access to the content of the meeting. Regarding public hearings required by law, the public body must provide interested parties access to the proceedings as well as a mechanism to provide input, question witnesses and view evidentiary material. Public hearings, therefore, require an interactive function.
6. What about providing for public speech or some other kind of public input in relation to a virtual meeting?
Nothing in Ohio law affords the public the right to make comments, pose questions or otherwise speak at a meeting of a public body. Generally, most public bodies do give those attending in-person the opportunity to speak, usually under reasonable, defined and uniform limitations. A public body may arrange for such input at a virtual meeting through the electronic technology being used by the body, but it is not required to do so. Clearly, taking steps to allow input is commendable, as it serves to maintain an additional facet of normalcy at meetings of the public body.
7. May a public body hold an executive session as part of a virtual meeting?
Yes. Nothing has changed regarding the executive sessions that public bodies may hold or the way that a public body enters into executive session.
A public body must convene in open session and, after a motion and a second, vote by roll call to go into an executive session to consider one or more of the permitted topics set out in R.C 121.22. If a personnel matter is at issue, the section requires more specific identification of the matter. Also, an attorney for the body must participate in any executive session convened for the purpose of discussing pending or imminent litigation. At the conclusion of the executive session, the public body must return to open session before taking any action or vote or before adjourning. These standards apply to both virtual and in-person meetings.
As in all matters related to virtual meetings, there will be challenges. It is suggested that a virtual
broadcast could be stayed or paused when the public body moves into an executive session, with
appropriate notice to viewers or listeners, and that the broadcast be reinitiated as the public body
returns to an open session.
can contact Mark Altier, Director of O
Government in the office of Attorney General Dave Yost, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 603-8645.
Additionally, the Ohio Attorney General's office recently created a website related to the extension of the Stay at Home order that went into effect Monday at midnight.
Over the course of the pandemic, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has issued several orders to protect the health and safety of Ohioans. However, because of the general nature of each order, a variety of questions have arisen as to the scope and applicability of these orders to both individuals and businesses.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office is supporting ODH by contacting businesses thought to be in violation of ODH's orders and requesting more information. Many local officials, including local sheriffs, police, and prosecutors, are also receiving these same inquiries.
This week, the Attorney General's Office activated a publicly-available website that contains a formalized process for individuals who wish to forward tips to their office. That site can be found here: https://www.ohioprotects.org/Public-Health-Order-Tip.
It is important to note that this site is not intended to be a catch-all for every tip or complaint. Many tips regarding alleged violations are still best handled by local law enforcement and health departments. However, if there is an allegation of widespread abuse or violations of an ODH order in multiple jurisdictions, the Attorney General's office is happy to review those tips and assist if possible.
THE U.S. DEPT. OF VETERANS AFFAIRS EXTENDS FINANCIAL BENEFITS AND CLAIMS RELEIF TO VETERANS
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have announced a number of actions to provide Veterans with financial, benefits and claims help amid VA's COVID-19 response.
"As all Americans come together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we want veterans to be focused on their health and safety," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. "That's why we're taking action to give those with pending debts, claims and appeals greater flexibility during these challenging times."
The financial relief actions include the following until further notice:
- Suspending all actions on veteran debts under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department.
- Suspending collection action or extending repayment terms on preexisting VA debts, as the veteran prefers.
For benefit debts, veterans can contact the VA Debt Management Center at 1-800-827-0648 to make arrangements. For health care debts, veterans can contact the Health Resource Center at 1-888-827-4817 to make arrangements.
The benefits and claims relief actions include giving veterans the option to submit their paperwork late for the following actions:
- perfecting claims
- challenging adverse decisions
- submitting Notices of Disagreement
- submitting Substantive Appeals
- responding to Supplemental Statements of the Case
Veterans requesting claim extensions can simply submit them with any late-filed paperwork and they do not have to proactively request an extension in advance. For added convenience, VA will also accept typed/digital signatures instead of wet signatures on its forms. Those with questions can call 1-800-827-1000.
OHIO DEPT. OF COMMERCE PROVIDES COVID-19 UPDATE FOR CEMETERY STAKEHOLDERS
The Ohio Department of Commerce has provided clarification on the extension of Ohio's Stay Home Order as it relates to funerals. Funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery and related services are essential businesses and operations. These essential businesses and operations may remain open. Individuals may leave their homes to attend funerals. Funerals are not subject to the Order's
However, any essential business and operation that chooses to remain open must comply with social distancing requirements as defined in the Order by maintaining a six-foot distancing for both employees and members of the public at all times, including but not limited to when any customers are standing in line.
Essential businesses that continue to operate must take proactive measures to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements, including where possible, all requirements under section (15)(a) of the Order:
- Designate six-foot distances - Designating with signage, tape, or by other means six foot spacing for employees and customers (in line) to maintain appropriate distance.
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing product - Have hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers.
- Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations - Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers.
- Online and remote access - Post online the facility hours of operation and provide the best contact information including phone, email or point of contact.
Any questions can be sent to