COLUMBUS — Gov. Mike DeWine and Republican legislative leaders plan to ask a quasi-legislative panel on Monday to release nearly $425 million in federal funds to help bars, restaurants, other small businesses, renters, home-owners, nonprofits, and others weather a coronavirus storm that continues to worsen.
Ohio set yet another record, 2,518, for new infections in a single day on Friday. Deaths, hospitalizations, and intensive-care unit admissions all came in well above average.
“Some businesses have done well …,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “We also know that some businesses are barely making it. Some have closed … This is really focused on them.
“It’s focused on those locally owned businesses, those that we’ve come to depend on over our lives that we want to be there when we get out of this …,” he said. “We recognize that we’re not going to be able to help everyone, but what we’re announcing today will help many.”
The package will be submitted to the bipartisan Ohio Controlling Board. It includes:
• $125 million in grants of up to $10,000 for small businesses with 25 or fewer employees to pay for such things as personal protection equipment and other safety measures, mortgage or rent payments, utilities, and employee salaries or wages.
• $100 million to help public and private colleges, universities, and technical schools deal with coronavirus-related expenses like testing and mental health services.
• $55 million to help lower-income Ohioans pay rent, mortgage, and water and sewer bills. To be eligible, families may earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $55,200-a-year for a family of four. Applications would be handled through the Ohio Development Services Agencies and local Community Action Agencies.
• $62 million to aid rural and critical-access hospitals.
• $38 million in liquor permit fee rebates to bars and restaurants. They can be eligible for up to $2,500 in addition to applying for the small business grants of up to $10,000.
• $20 million to support arts organizations.
• $25 million to help shelters, social services, and other non-profits serving the unemployed.
Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, applauded the emergency rental assistance portion of the plan.
“We look forward to seeing details on how the program will be implemented,” he said. “Given the Dec. 31 [federal] deadline to use these funds, we would welcome the governor’s assistance in advocating for Congress to provide additional rental assistance into 2021.”
With the surging coronavirus cases, Mr. DeWine has given up on a plan to ease the current 10 p.m. last call for serving alcohol at bars and restaurants. But fellow Republicans participating in Friday’s announcement, including Senate President Larry Obhof (R., Medina), are pursuing a bill to repeal that order, restoring the prior 2 a.m. last call.
In all, 192,948 Ohioans have come down with the virus. Twenty-three more died as reported on Friday for a total of 5,184. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions were also on the high side.
Ohio House Democratic leader Emilia Sykes (D., Akron) criticized Republican leaders for sitting on these “long overdue” federal dollars, finding their release now “incredibly convenient for Statehouse Republicans.”
“House Democrats have been calling since the beginning of this pandemic for the legislature to return to session and provide relief and assistance to small businesses, front-line workers, unemployed Ohioans, caregivers, schools and so many others who have been struggling during this pandemic,” she said.
“House Republicans ignored us and the pleas of our constituents and instead held onto this money until the opportunity when they could use it to their own political advantage by manufacturing their own ‘October surprise’,” Ms. Sykes said.
All of the lawmakers participating in the announcement were majority Republicans, including House Speaker Bob Cupp (R., Lima).
Some are locked in competitive election battles, including Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R., Huron) in the 89th District serving Ottawa and Erie counties.
Applications for the grants may be offered beginning on Nov. 1. Details can be found at businesshelp.ohio.gov.