Ohio tries to fill economic vacuum left by feds

By: - October 21, 2020 12:55 am

Gov. Mike DeWine is seen during a COVID-19 press conference. (Screenshot courtesy OhioChannel)

With hope for federal economic help dimming, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced a few state measures to aid Ohio’s struggling businesses and citizens.

The state is seeing an alarming spike in the spread of coronavirus, on Tuesday reporting a record for new hospitalizations over the previous 24 hours — 216. It was more than triple the 21-day average of 94.

“In the past day, 2,015 new cases have been reported in Ohio, and our numbers continue to rise at a rate that should concern all of us. Two hundred sixteen new hospitalizations were reported in the past 24 hours – the highest number of hospitalizations ever reported in a 24-hour period in Ohio,” DeWine’s office said in a tweet during Tuesday’s coronavirus press conference.

But unlike in March, when the governor started holding such briefings, it seems doubtful that federal help is on the way. Back then, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which provided a federal unemployment supplement, one-time payments to families and support for businesses. 

Now, however, much of that funding has dried up and millions of Americans are out of work and sliding into poverty.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House continued on Tuesday to try to come up with another $2 trillion deal, but the Republican-controlled Senate hasn’t agreed to pass a package even half that size. Hopes for a deal were already dim when Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he didn’t support a $1.8 trillion relief package.

DeWine held out optimism that federal support still might be coming.

“I think they will pass something by the end of the year,” he said.

Even so, he announced two measures the state is taking.

One is $1.3 billion in premiums that will be refunded to businesses by the Bureau of Workers Compensation. It’s in addition to $1.6 billion that was refunded in April.

“We believe this payment will help many struggling businesses to stay open and keep employees,” Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary, said.

Also, DeWine said that on Friday he’ll announce his plans for more than $1 billion in unexpended CARES Act dollars. Organizations working to fight hunger, homelessness and other social ills have been clamoring for some of that money since August.

DeWine said he wants to use some of it for coronavirus testing and contact tracing on the rationale that it’s impossible to get the economy back on its feet if the virus is still rapidly spreading. 

“If we can’t keep the virus under control, everything goes out the window,” DeWine said.

And some of the funds will apparently be used to assist business.

“This is building a bridge to save a business and save a job,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

What will be allocated to help those who have already lost jobs remains to be seen.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.