Week in Review - 05/08/2020

Week in Review - 05/08/2020

FY20-21 BUDGET

Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his daily briefing Tuesday that his administration will be reducing General Revenue Fund spending by $775 million for the remainder of FY20 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect state revenues. Preliminary April revenue data released by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) on Wednesday showed the state finished the month $866.5 million, or about 35.3 percent, below estimates. While the state was running ahead of estimates throughout the fiscal year into February, with that month exceeding estimates by $100 million, OBM Director Kim Murnieks told reporters on a call Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to nearly $1 billion swing in the opposite direction over the last two months. 


CORONAVIRUS

Gov. Mike DeWine's new order outlining restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic took effect on Friday, but DeWine said not to pay attention to the expiration date as he plans to release new orders opening up parts of the economy throughout the month that will supersede it. Calling the order "Stay Safe Ohio" instead of a stay-at-home order, DeWine said he picked Friday, May 29 as an expiration date because he had to name one, but he expects to open up more of the state throughout the month. While much of the order remains the same as the previous stay-at-home order, provisions will allow some retail businesses to open sooner than Tuesday, May 12 for curbside pick-up and appointment-only service.


Calling it "a gamble," Gov. Mike DeWine outlined the reopening plan for restaurants, bars and personal services such as barbershops, salons, spas and massage parlors while also stressing the importance of collective responsibility. Restaurants and bars can reopen for outdoor seating on Friday, May 15, he said, and for indoor seating on Thursday, May 21. Personal services will also be able to reopen on May 15. He said an announcement on child care services is expected Monday.


On the House changes to and passage of SB1 (McColley-Roegner), DeWine pledged to veto the bill should the Senate pass it, explaining that the current law regarding the health director's authority has been in statute for around 100 years and has been used before, he said, noting Ohio currently faces an emergency unlike anything since the 1918 influenza pandemic. In light of that, DeWine told reporters he did not understand why there was an effort to change the law to require legislative approval of health orders extending beyond 14 days. The nature of health emergencies is that they require "quick action," he continued, and the only reason the state is in a position to reopen businesses now is because of "highly successful" orders under that authority.


EDUCATION

School disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic are bringing to the fore inequities that predate the crisis, as well as the necessity of tailoring instruction to meet individual needs, State Board of Education President Laura Kohler told Hannah News. In a phone interview, Kohler said it's important for the General Assembly to set a clear policy direction on remote learning, which will then help the board and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) assist local schools with implementation.


The attorney appointed by a court to supervise assets of the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is seeking to use most of the school's remaining cash to pay its debt to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for unemployment compensation benefits. That proposal drew an objection from former ECOT Treasurer Michele Smith, who says the law and the court's established protocols on claims against the school hold her and other creditors' claims should be reviewed before any such distributions happens.


ODE continues to share new guidance as students and schools grapple with disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered all school buildings in Ohio and shifted education online. All of ODE's pandemic guidance is posted at www.education.ohio.gov/coronavirus.