By James Gravely
COLUMBUS— State lawmakers returned to the Statehouse this week to address the COVID-19 crisis and provide immediate relief to everyday Ohioans.
Cincinnati’s Democratic State Representatives Sedrick Denson, Brigid Kelly, and Catherine Ingram praised the unanimous passage of an omnibus bill (HB 197) that would prohibit utility shut-offs, waive state testing requirements, freeze EdChoice eligibility, extend voting in the primary election, postpone the state income tax filing deadline among several other measures.
“I’m glad we could act quickly to benefit workers and families during this crisis,” Denson said. “This is just the first step. We still have more work to do on behalf of our schools and small business owners as we work to ease the burden of all Ohioans.”
Ingram said, “This is important work we had to do for all Ohioans. Though we must stay vigilant of more work to be done, today makes the statement about collaboration for the greater good.”
“Many of the provisions passed in today’s bill address issues House Democrats have long fought for to support working people and families; protect the health, safety and security of Ohioans; equip children with the tools they need to succeed; and ensure our government works for the people, not against them,’’ said Kelly.
The bills provisions include:
Supporting working people and families by:
- Writing the Governor’s unemployment changes into law, including waiving waiting period, changing eligibility for COVID-19 and waiving work search requirements;
- Moving state tax deadline from April 15 to July 15;
- Prohibiting water shutoffs;
- Suspending staff-to-child ratios and maximum group sizes at child-care centers;
- Allowing JFS to continue making payments to publicly funded child care providers during the emergency;
Ensuring health and safety by:
- Giving the Director of Medicaid additional flexibility to support the health care workforce and providers during crisis;
- Allowing recent nursing graduates to obtain a temporary license to practice prior to passing the licensure examination;
- Granting certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), under certain conditions, the authority to perform additional duties or services related to anesthesia care;
Equipping children with the tools they need to succeed:
- Waiving state testing and report cards for the 19-20 school year and allowing students to graduate who were already on track to do so;
- Exempting schools from food processing requirements to ensure children have access to nutrition even if their school is shut down;
- Limiting EdChoice school buildings for 20-21 to those eligible in 19-20;
- Allowing schools to use distance learning to make up for missed days or hours of instruction caused by statewide K-12 closures;
- Allowing licensed special education providers to serve students through tele-health and other electronic communications methods;
Making our democracy and government work for the people by:
- Extending absentee voting by mail for the primary to April 28;
- Extending validity of state licenses and providing a 90-day renewal period;
- Permitting public bodies to meet electronically as long as the public has ability to participate as well;
- Allowing recently retired state employees to be rehired at DRC, DYS, MHA, DVS and DDD;
- $20M (non-GRF) fund shift for DAS operation of state agency capital facility projects.
The bill now makes its way to Governor Mike DeWine’s desk for signature.