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Gov. DeWine Proposes $1 Billion To Offset Pandemic Harm

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine
Jay LaPrete
/
AP
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

Small businesses and local communities would receive hundreds of millions of dollars to help with recovery from the coronavirus pandemic under a $1 billion initiative announced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, which also includes aggressive marketing of Ohio as a place to work and live.

The small business aid includes $20 million for businesses that opened only last year, while money for communities includes $250 million to boost broadband access for Ohioans who lack it, DeWine said as he promoted the initiative as a key element of his proposed two-year state budget.

“We will be supporting Ohio’s small businesses, strengthening Ohio’s communities, growing Ohio’s skilled workforce and telling Ohio’s story," DeWine said.

DeWine says the "Investing in Ohio" iniative also includes:

  • $200 million in grants for bars and restaurants;
  • $150 million in grants for Small Business Relief Grant applicants, who previously applied and are qualified;
  • $50 million in grants for lodging industry businesses;
  • and $40 million in grants for indoor entertainment venues

DeWine's budget would also spend $50 million to promote the state as a place where people can move to, work and raise their families. That money will help “tell a national audience about Ohio’s excellent career opportunities, top-tier colleges and universities, amazing getaways, and the inviting communities we have for people to call home,” DeWine said.
Upon hearing that, the minority leader of the Ohio House, Emilia Sykes tweeted her thoughts on why people don't want to live in Ohio: "Instead of spending $50m for a PR campaign Republicans could stop passing extremist legislation that keeps women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and working families from realizing their American dream in Ohio. It would be a lot cheaper. And much more kind."

When asked about the comments from Sykes and others, DeWine responded, "Ohio is a welcoming place. I don't care who you are. We want you to come to Ohio. You know it's a progressive state."

The $1 billion comes from a combination of savings through a reduced workforce and frozen state spending, along with an increase in federal Medicaid dollars. It’s meant as a one-time investment only, the governor said.

DeWine says the state the budget doesn’t raise taxes, but it will raise some fees – including increasing BMV costs for vehicle and title registration. And it doesn’t touch the nearly $3 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, although DeWine hasn’t ruled out using it in the future to address needs brought on by the pandemic.

State budget director Kimberly Murnieks says the budget shows that finances are beginning to stabilize after the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"But we still have to be very careful to not create a situation in the future where we have spent some of the one-time revenues on recurring obligations that then create those fiscal cliffs," Murnieks says.

Recovery from the pandemic was expected to be a key theme of the budget plan, including economy recovery dollars and spending on the state's public health system, along with traditional funding for schools and public colleges and universities, the state prison system, and everything from parks to water quality.

Last month, DeWine ordered $390 million across-the-board budget cuts for the rest of the fiscal year, citing the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But DeWine also released $260 million for schools and universities, noting the revenue shortfall this year wasn't as bad as last year.

The two-year budget pays for a vast chunk of Ohio government programs, from funding for schools and universities, the cost of running parks and prisons, and the price tag of Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care system for poor children and families.

House lawmakers will consider the plan first and produce their own proposal. The Senate comes next, and a final plan approved by the House, Senate and DeWine must be signed into law by July 1.