Week in Review: May 9, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

FY20-21 BUDGET

The Office of Budget and Management reported a half billion dollar-plus miss on income tax collections in April but said it expects to make that up in May, which now includes the deadline for income tax filing after the pandemic prompted another delay. The state's largest revenue source, the sales tax, continued its strong performance with double-digit bumps over projections in both the auto and non-auto categories.

CORONAVIRUS

Gov. Mike DeWine discussed Monday during his briefing how those who have not been vaccinated remain at "very significant" risk of COVID-19, in response to questions about a New York Times article on public health experts' concerns regarding when or if national herd immunity will be reached here in the U.S.

Bars and taverns were among the hardest hit businesses by COVID-19 restrictions, some of which were confusing or had tenuous connections to existing liquor regulations, an industry representative told a Senate committee Tuesday while urging the chamber to uphold House language voiding penalties for violating those restrictions.

Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud Tuesday signed four new amended health orders that generally exempt fully vaccinated staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities from routine COVID-19 testing. The orders say “fully vaccinated” refers to a person who is more than two weeks following the receipt of the second dose of a two-dose series COVID-19 vaccine, or more than two weeks following the receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Recommendations for Vaccinated Persons.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment claimants close to exhausting their eligibility may benefit from an expansion of a federal program that offers intensive re-employment services, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Interim Director Matt Damschroder announced Friday. The U.S. Department of Labor is providing more than $146 million to fund state workforce agencies' Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment programs, with Ohio receiving $5.6 million.

The Controlling Board Monday approved without objection a late request from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to release $39 million in federal funds to be used to administer the unemployment insurance program. Brian Stout, legislative liaison for ODJFS, told the Controlling Board that the request gives the agency the appropriation authority to use the federal funds for unemployment administrative purposes including operation needs, staff payroll, and vendor services, as well as anti-fraud efforts. He said the request is part of a broader request for the release of $71 million in federal funds to ensure the services and unemployment insurance payments are provided, adding the funds are expected to last ODJFS for the rest of the state fiscal year.

For the week ending May 1, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 18,642 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. This is the first time the number of new weekly jobless claims has fallen below 20,000 since October 2020.

PENSIONS

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System announced the selection of Via Benefits offered by Willis Towers Watson to administer the system's Pre-Medicare Connector beginning in 2022. The OPERS Board of Trustees voted in January 2020 to end its group plan for retirees who haven't reached Medicare age starting in 2022, requiring them to use subsidies provided by OPERS to buy coverage on the market.

TAXATION

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Carl Aveni has dismissed a conservative think tank's lawsuit against the state of Ohio and the city of Columbus, finding that the General Assembly had the power to impose the pandemic municipal income tax changes made in 133-HB197 (Powell-Merrin). The Buckeye Institute challenged HB197's withholding provision instructing municipalities to continue withholding municipal income tax at a taxpayer's place of work, even if the taxpayer is currently working from home in a different local jurisdiction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The open enrollment period for Ohio employers to select a managed care organization to oversee medical management for workers injured on the job began Monday, May 3, and continues through Friday, May 28. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation offers open enrollment every two years for employers to select from a network of 10 MCOs that manage claim filings and medical care that injured workers need to recover and return to work.