DeWine says his administration wants ideas about how to help distressed Ohioans

Gov. Mike DeWine is seen in a March 9 press conference announcing the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio.

During a press conference that was again dominated by talk of bar curfews, youth sports and the return to college, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday said his administration is taking several steps to help poor and minority Ohioans — the group that is getting coronavirus at disproportionate rates and is bearing the brunt of the economic fallout.

But the governor added that he’s open to ideas.

“We continue to see a difference in the COVID; its impact on African Americans, its impact on Hispanics,” DeWine said.

It’s been almost a month since a $600-a-week federal unemployment supplement and an eviction moratorium both expired. Both expirations are expected to leave many of the 503,000 Ohioans who were unemployed in July in harrowing economic  circumstances — even as they, their families and their friends are more likely to get the disease.

New research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis also shows that after tracking about evenly since October, from April onward far more Americans who didn’t have high school diplomas lost jobs than those with college degrees.

Even before federal unemployment benefits and renter protections expired huge numbers of Ohioans were experiencing insecurity. 

In the most recent Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey (for July 16-21), 683,000 Ohioans sometimes or often  didn’t get enough to eat in the past seven days. The same survey said 673,000 Ohioans had no or slight confidence that they’d be able to make the next month’s rent.

Ohio food bank officials report there’s been a jump in demand in August, and a prominent housing advocate expects evictions to jump at the start of September. While Congress dithers over additional coronavirus relief, some are worried that suffering in poor and minority communities could exacerbate civil unrest.

DeWine on Tuesday said that he’s doing what he can to get a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement President Donald Trump created through executive action. Some critics have called the plan unworkable and possibly illegal.

DeWine said that assuming Ohio receives the funds soon, his team says it can reprogram computers and take other necessary steps to get the money to people by mid or late September.

“I’ve made it clear to my team that we’ve got to get this out absolutely as quickly as we can,” he said. “People are hurting.”

In terms of fighting the disease in low-income communities, DeWine said more nursing homes are doing their own coronavirus testing and so he can redeploy state assets.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into the National Guard going into areas that are underserved,” he said.

The governor also appealed to Ohioans to share ideas about how to more effectively get tests to people who need them most — particular apartment buildings, for example.

“We are very much willing to do that,” DeWine said.