Week in Review - 07/17/2020

Week in Review - 07/17/2020

FY20-21 BUDGET

The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) released its full monthly financial report for June and for FY20 on Friday, following preliminary data released earlier that showed Ohio ended FY20 with about $1.1 billion less in tax revenue than originally projected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. OBM says economic forecasters generally project full economic recovery by the end of calendar year 2021, with expansion expected to begin in the third and fourth quarters of this year. OBM Director Kim Murnieks recently said she expects the negative effects of the pandemic to extend into the next biennial budget.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES

With the possibility of extended school closures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) urged greater federal and state support for child care facilities, which have lost capacity due to social distancing requirements and faced layoffs due to widespread economic hardship.


PMO budget researcher Will Petrik emphasized during a news conference that child care workers are the "workforce behind the workforce" that allows parents to participate in the economy. He called on lawmakers to ensure parents have safe places for their kids to stay during the day.


CORONAVIRUS

Ohio Department of Health (ODH) coronavirus case statistics showed an increase from 62,856 cases on Friday, July 10 to 70,601 cases on Thursday, July 16. In addition, total COVID-19 deaths reached 3,103 as of Thursday, July 16.


In a Wednesday evening address to the state, Gov. Mike DeWine called on all Ohioans to wear masks but said further state orders were a topic for another time. Collective action would be more important than what could be compelled, he added. "If we do not change course, Florida and Arizona will be our future," DeWine said. He noted he'd read a book about the 1918 pandemic, "The Great Influenza" by John Barry, and said that Barry has called this current time the nation's "second chance" to stop COVID-19.


House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) emphasized the need to give Ohioans the information they need to make responsible decisions amid the pandemic in reaction to Gov. Mike DeWine's Wednesday night address, saying the speech drove that message home.


Gov. Mike DeWine indicated Thursday that a statewide mask mandate is on the table, though he is not taking that step yet. Ohio again saw COVID-19 cases increase by over a 1,000 overnight and eight new counties have been given a red alert level three public emergency designation for their surge in coronavirus cases. Athens, Allen, Delaware, Licking, Lucas, Richland, Scioto, and Union counties were upgraded. They join Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Montgomery, Pickaway, Summit, and Wood counties which remain at level three. This means 19 of Ohio's 88 counties are now considered to have a very high risk of exposure and spread of the virus. With the addition of the new counties, approximately 60 percent of the state's population is now under a requirement to wear masks. Only Trumbull County was downgraded to a level two orange alert level.


While long-term care facility (LTC) residents have made up approximately 65 percent of the state's COVID-19 deaths since April 15, industry leaders' comments to Hannah News and data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) shows conditions are improving. Since April 15, there have been 1,732 resident deaths reported at LTCs across the state, though the data is limited to the county level. ODH has offered numbers for the prior seven days on each Wednesday through a dashboard at the www.coronavirus.ohio.gov site.


Ohio teacher union leaders Monday criticized the Trump administration's posture on reopening schools, following comments from the president and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that they see as exerting pressure to return to classrooms without adequate health precautions. President Donald Trump has raised the possibility of withholding federal funding from schools that don't reopen in the fall. In a television interview over the weekend, DeVos said data do not suggest having kids in schools is dangerous, and pointed to resumption of classes in other countries.


EDUCATION

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) unveiled a new landing page for "Reset and Restart," guidelines recently released by the state that are designed to assist schools and districts as they plan how to approach the new school year. Additional support materials and resources will be added to the site as they become available.


The State Board of Education (SBOE) plans to take a second look at Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3301-20-03, a rule that deals with individuals who are not licensed with SBOE or the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) but who are otherwise employed at a school and have certain criminal convictions. The rule, which was being rescinded in its current form and replaced in order to align with rehabilitation standards, had already been approved by the state board and was on its way to be permanently filed with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) before Board President Laura Kohler decided it needed further discussion.


The State Board of Education adopted a resolution Tuesday condemning racism as an impediment to the educational equity it seeks to achieve in its strategic plan for Ohio schools. The resolution calls for Ohio Department of Education staff to undergo training and for reviews of academic standards to eliminate bias. It encourages local boards of education to take similar action. The board also passed a resolution expressing support for the ability of local education and health officials to make the right decisions on reopening their buildings for learning in the fall.


The state is distributing an initial $100 million to Ohio schools via the federal CARES Act to help defray pandemic-related expenses from March through year's end. This follows Controlling Board action on Monday, July 13. The Ohio Department of Education provided a spreadsheet with estimated distribution amounts to district schools, charter schools, private schools, STEM schools, county boards of developmental disabilities and joint vocational school districts. The funding is distributed in a base amount of $54.5 million based on student counts; $24.7 million based on the number of students who are in low-income households, have disabilities or are English learners; and $20.8 million for transportation costs.


GOVERNOR

Gov. Mike DeWine's office announced Tuesday that he signed SB4 (Rulli-Kunze) into law. The bill makes capital appropriations for school facilities and public works assistance and increases local authorities' power to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE). The bill also requires and clarifies that transportation improvement districts must comply with Ohio's Prevailing Wage Law, unless the amount of state and local funds the district receives for the contract or project is less than statutory thresholds specified in the law.