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Week in review: Oct. 3, 2021

Written on Oct 1, 2021

STATE GOVERNMENT

The Ohio Department of Commerce issued a reminder Thursday that the state minimum wage will increase to $9.30 per hour for non-tipped employees and $4.65 per hour for tipped employees on Jan. 1, 2022. This applies to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of over $342,000 per year. The current minimum wage is $8.80 for non-tipped employees and $4.40 for tipped employees, and it applies to businesses with gross receipts of more than $319,000 per year.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The Ohio Department of Development announced Monday that it has financial resources available to help businesses get started or expand their export initiatives as part of the International Market Access Grant for Exporters program. IMAGE offers eligible companies a 50% reimbursement of up to $10,000 in expenditures for activities promoting international business, including website development, international advertising, e-commerce, search engine optimization, marketing and website translation, compliance testing and trade shows. The first application period opened Monday and closes at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The funds can be used between Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, with additional periods announced quarterly subject to funding availability.

CORONAVIRUS

While hospitals are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients across the state, the Cleveland Clinic is expecting the situation to get worse before it gets better. "Our forecast models predict our highest volumes of COVID-19 patients will come in the next several weeks, as this wave peaks in Northern Ohio," the clinic said Monday in a statement on its website.

The Ohio Department of Health Saturday released guidance to the more than 3,500 COVID-19 vaccine providers statewide on administering booster doses of the Pfizer/Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccines.

Last week, the FDA authorized a third Pfizer vaccine shot for Americans based on age, health status and occupational risk and Gov. Mike DeWine said the state would make vaccine boosters available to select groups of the population as soon as practical. In alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ODH said booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are now available for the following populations at least six months after completion of the primary Pfizer series, meaning at least six months after the second dose was administered:

  • People 65 years and older or residents in long-term care settings SHOULD receive a booster shot.
  • People ages 50 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions SHOULD receive a booster shot.
  • People ages 18 to 49 with certain underlying medical conditions MAY receive a booster shot based on their individual benefits and risks. The CDC has indicated that this is a determination made by the vaccine recipient, but those eligible are encouraged to talk to their health care providers if they have any questions.
  • People ages 18 and older who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their job or living in an institutional setting MAY receive a booster shot based on their individual benefits and risks. The CDC has indicated that this is a determination made by the vaccine recipient.

The pandemic has disproportionately affected women in the workforce, Institute for Women's Policy Research Study Director Elyse Shaw said during a virtual panel Wednesday, but the recovery period represents a chance for "bold" improvements. The IWPR is a national think tank. The panel was organized by the Columbus Women's Commission and also included CWC Chair Shannon Ginther, YWCA Columbus President and CEO Christie Angel and Columbus Division of Police Commander Kelly Weiner, who filled in for Police Chief Elaine Bryant. Shaw said the pandemic has "highlighted and exacerbated" existing disparities along gender and race, including wage gaps, and that women were concentrated in the jobs most affected and slowest to be restored. It represented a "perfect storm" as a result of those factors, she added.

A study released recently on state vaccination rates – including but not limited to COVID-19 – by personal finance site WalletHub found Ohio was 33rd nationally and fourth among its neighbors. The study used 17 metrics and had three subrankings, with Ohio 28th in adult and elderly vaccination rates, 33rd in "immunization uptake disparities and influencing factors" and 41st in children and teenager immunization rates. Neighboring states ranked as follows: Pennsylvania, 13th; West Virginia, 21st; Kentucky, 28th; Michigan, 34th; and Indiana, 38th. The top five were Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and North Dakota. Those ranked lowest included Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Georgia and Mississippi.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Ohio Department of Development said that applications for the new Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program are now open. The program provides a tax credit for major-mixed use developments in Ohio. The credit can be used to help finance new construction and/or improvement of vacant buildings. Developments must include an influence on the economic and social well-being of the immediate site and surrounding area that will spur long-term change in the area, according to DOD. Properties eligible for the tax credit must include at least two mixed uses, or three if one use is a parking structure.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Legislation seeking to increase the number of organ donors in the state unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday. Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) said HB21 (Koehler) requires the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and deputy registrars to ask anyone applying for or renewing a motor vehicle registration if they would like to be an organ donor, unless they've already certified their willingness to donate their organs. The bill also increases suggested donations for the Second Chance Trust Fund and the "Donate Life" license plate.

The House Government Oversight Committee got a first look Tuesday at legislation touted by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Attorney General Dave Yost as a way to ensure Ohioans' data privacy rights. Reps. Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville) and Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) presented sponsor testimony on HB376, the Ohio Personal Privacy Act. They announced introduction of the bill in July. "Currently, there is no national standard for regulating the collection and use of personal information. The purpose of this bill is not only to establish a statewide standard for data privacy in Ohio, but also to serve as a national model, one that we hope states will look to emulate and ultimately for our federal government to adopt as our country's policy," Carfagna said.

The "Telehealth Expansion Act" drew support from wide-ranging medical associations during Wednesday's Senate Health Committee. HB122 (Fraizer-Holmes) seeks to codify requirements for telehealth services, which exploded in number during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill, which passed the House floor unanimously in April, garnered more than 20 written submissions of proponent testimony with another seven individuals testifying in support of the bill in person. From cancer care to behavioral health to dietetics, the bill was supported by medical professionals in a range of different fields.

NATURAL RESOURCES

The muskellunge, or "muskie," is a popular game fish that can grow to immense sizes in Ohio's inland lakes, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Nine Ohio reservoirs are stocked with muskie by the ODNR Division of Wildlife and one, Pymatuning Lake on the Pennsylvania state line, is stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Staff from Ohio's London and Kincaid state fish hatcheries stock approximately 20,000 muskies measuring 8-12 inches every fall, ODNR said. Ohio lakes where muskies are stocked include the following:

  • Alum Creek Lake (Delaware County)
  • Caesar Creek Lake (Clinton, Greene and Warren counties)
  • Clear Fork Reservoir (Morrow and Richland counties)
  • East Fork Lake (Clermont County)
  • Lake Milton (Mahoning County)
  • Leesville Lake (Carroll County)
  • Piedmont Lake (Belmont and Harrison counties)
  • Pymatuning Lake (Ashtabula County and Pennsylvania)
  • Salt Fork Reservoir (Guernsey County)
  • West Branch Reservoir (Portage County)

TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE

Business and tech leaders held the first "Ohio Tech Day" Friday, working to raise awareness on the role of innovation in the state economy and promote students' entry into the technology workforce. It was organized by the nonprofit Ohio X, with President Chris Berry saying he intends it to be an annual event. The day included a virtual forum and in-person events around the state and was sponsored by Facebook.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

For the week ending Sept. 25, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 10,135 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is lower than the previous week when the department reported 12,952 traditional jobless claims. Ohioans filed 108,100 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 51,676 fewer than the previous week, according to a news release from ODJFS. The total number of traditional claims filed from Sept. 19 through Sept. 25 was 118,235.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation Board of Directors on Friday approved the expansion of the agency's December 2020 $5 billion dividend to approximately 3,000 employers who did not originally meet eligibility requirements. The expansion was requested by Gov. Mike DeWine and allows for approximately $30 million to go to the previously ineligible employers who, through no fault of their own, could not perform their 2019 "true-up" in the timeframe for the dividend return.

This feature was provided by Hannah News Service and selected for you by OSCPA Government Relations staff.