Governor, lawmakers plan aid for small businesses, renters

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An aid package is coming soon for small businesses and people struggling to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ohio’s GOP Senate finance chairman.

Lawmakers and Gov. Mike DeWine are figuring out the best way to provide the money—from federal pandemic relief funds—as quickly as possible, Senator Matt Dolan, a Republican from Chagrin Falls in northeastern Ohio, said Wednesday.

The governor and lawmakers are jointly working on a plan that would also provide assistance for companies experiencing difficulty making mortgage payments. Given the importance of the issue, moving the money through the state Controlling Board is one option, said Dan Tierney, a DeWine spokesman. The bipartisan panel approves larger state spending measures.

DeWine first announced the aid package Tuesday while also saying the ban on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. is being reviewed. The ban, which is meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus by limiting late-night socializing, is unpopular with bars and restaurants that are already hurting from reduced business.

The aid comes as unemployment claims have ticked upward in recent days after weeks of declines from their record highs at the start of the pandemic. The state said Thursday that first-time claims rose for the second time in two weeks, jumping to 17,944 for the week ending Sept. 26, a 3% increase from the previous week.

Continuing claims for unemployment, considered a more reliable indicator of the economy, fell last week after rising the week before, the state said.

“With the unfortunate unemployment numbers still too high, there are people struggling to pay their rent and there are landlords struggling to pay their mortgage,” Dolan said. “So we’re trying to provide some temporary financial assistance until we can get through this crisis.”

Both initial claims for unemployment and continuing claims rose slightly in the last week as the economic impact of the pandemic continues, Ohio’s human services agency reported Sept. 24.

DeWine should make coronavirus relief funds available as soon as possible, said Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat who proposed $270 million in immediate rent relief in August.

The Ohio Health Department has reported more than 155,000 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, including 1,327 new cases Thursday, well above the 21-day average case number of 1,011. The state reported 4,817 confirmed and probable deaths from COVID-19.

DeWine said Thursday that life in Ohio won’t get back to normal until the state reaches “herd immunity,” an epidemiological concept referring to when a substantial portion of a population has disease immunity, typically reached through vaccines.

“We’ve got to keep this virus low, we’ve got to keep our foot on its neck, and wait,” DeWine said at his twice-weekly briefing. “We wait for the vaccine to hit and when it gets here and the first people start getting the shots, we’ve got to encourage everyone to get one, if they can.”


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