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Ohio Legislature Returns to Address Multiple COVID-19 Related Issues/Budget

Updated: May 11, 2020

The legislature is back, and lots going on around the statehouse now. While simultaneously, Governor DeWine and Health Director, Dr Amy Acton are working on new orders to open the state back up – different industries in different phases, but most everything will be done or opened back up by mid-May. But mass gatherings will be last on that list, no timeline given on that just yet.

Besides the new orders, some of the hot legislative priorities over the next 2 months will be what Budget cuts the Governor will propose, what the new anticipated Budget Corrections bill will look like and some type of Capital re-appropriations budget. Given the circumstances, I doubt there will be a Capital Budget this year, but maybe there could be a small one later this year if they get the finances under control by then. And there are many other COVID-19 related bills that address a wide range of topics as it relates to distributing the Federal CARES Act funding to local governments ($350 m in the first go around), much needed civil liability protections for emergency services for employers and businesses, multiple tax issues, as well as unemployment compensation and workers compensation, to name just a few.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted our health care system, as well as our economy. Therefore, the Legislature will pass some more much needed legislative priorities, mainly to resolve some budget shortfalls (declining tax revenues, coupled with additional COVID-19 related spending) as a result of the Coronavirus, to get our economy back up and running again. Therefore, given the unprecedented economic impact caused by COVID-19, expect legislators to develop a series of recovery tax credits, grants, loans and other programs fairly-quickly.

Due to the impact to our economy from to the Coronavirus, Governor DeWine has proposed cutting $775 m in the current budget, as FY ’20 expires on June 30th. There is $2.7 B in the rainy day fund and they will tap that, but it appears they will try not to touch it over the next two months, but will likely use it in the coming FY, which starts July 1st. So, they will need to get more money from somewhere now as we move forward. All this coupled with most state agencies being told to cut up to 20% from their current budgets.

The House just passed a bill yesterday (SB 1) that would limit the Health Director orders to 14 days, unless an extension is approved by JCARR; and if JCARR does not act, then the health order would be rescinded. It still needs to go to the Senate yet and then ultimately to the Governor for his signature, if he does not veto it, which he likely will.

While the Governor and Dr. Acton have received a lot of support over the past couple months, there are some that say they did not do enough, while others say they did too much. But as of late, the House Republicans have been saying they need to open the state back up quicker, now, not in phases, that all businesses are ‘essential’, and all should have re-opened on May 1st. They said this is not only a health crisis, but also an economic crisis, and we need to get people back to work now.

The Governor came out with a New order last week and the businesses re-opening timelines are as follows:

  • The new “Stay Safe Ohio” order (no longer “stay at home”) is the new order that goes into effect May 1st and runs through May 29th. It mainly re-opens businesses, gradually, in phases.

  • Everyone else is still ordered to stay at home (and work from home if you can) if they are not part of the business exclusions to go back to work.

    • DeWine did say that several more orders or modifications will be coming over the next few weeks, during the month of May, to re-open more businesses. So, when those orders come out, they will supersede this new current order, so do not get fixated on the new May 29 date – because it will change, but they had to put a date on it.

      • Many workgroups are working now on plans to re-open the other currently closed industries, such as: gyms, day care, travel & tourism and sports, etc. –They must also follow 'best practices’ when they open, but those orders will be coming soon.

    • May 1st – hospital’s, doctor’s offices, dentists and veterinarian offices could start re-opening then.

    • May 4th - construction, manufacturing, distribution and general workers, businesses/offices able to open back up.

    • Retail services can open May 12th - stores can now begin making appointments for customers.

    • Hair salons and barbershops can open for business on Friday, May 15. In addition, restaurants and bars can open for outside dining on Friday, May 15, and then indoor dining opening on Thursday, May 21. All are encouraged to follow best practices.

    • There will be an announcement regarding childcare on Monday May 11th. – tbd...

So, there is a lot to do in a short amount of time. Things seem to change daily, but we will be following all of this very closely. Buckle up, as it’s going to be a bumpy ride over the next two months. In the meantime, if you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance during this time, please feel free to contact our team. If you would like more information about this Buzz, please contact Rich Bitonte, Dan Dodd or Tom Zaino at 614-782-1440 or Thank you.

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