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Week in Review: June 27, 2021

Written on Jun 25, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

CORONAVIRUS

Gov. Mike DeWine Friday held a press conference at Thomas Worthington High School to encourage student athletes and their coaches to get vaccinated, but later told reporters that his administration won't be issuing any state orders requiring it for students to participate in extracurricular activities this year. Instead DeWine, joined by coaches and students from the Columbus area, focused on the challenges of the previous year as schools and the state tried to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hispanic Americans have died of COVID-19 at a disproportionately high rate compared to Whites because of workplace exposure to the virus, according to a recent study from Ohio State University. Hispanics are overrepresented among workers in essential industries and occupations ranging from warehousing and grocery stores to health care and construction, much of which kept operating when most of the country shut down in spring 2020. An analysis of federal data showed that, considering their representation in the U.S. population, far higher percentages of Hispanics of working age -- 30 to 69 years old -- have died of COVID-19 than Whites in the same age groups.

Prior to visiting with the final winners of the $1 million prize and the college scholarship, Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday declared the Vax-a-Million a "great success," noting the numbers vaccinated over the first three weeks of the five-week program. He said the first week saw 92,365 vaccinated; 187,238 the second week; and 142,713 the third week. For this fifth and final drawing, a total of 3,469,542 vaccinated adults were entered for a chance to win $1 million and 154,889 vaccinated youth entered for a chance to win a college scholarship. This was an increase of 41,028 adult entries and 4,702 youth entries over last week, according to the governor's office.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Development Services Agency (DSA) announced Wednesday that it had selected seven partners to operate Minority Business Assistance Centers (MBACs) to serve minority and disadvantaged businesses in every county in Ohio. The request for proposals was made in April.

ECONOMY

U.S. retail sales are expected to grow by 5.5% in the back-to-school spending period of July 15 to Sept. 6, according to a recent Mastercard "Spending Pulse" report. Forecasted shopping also represents a 6.7% increase over the 2019 period. The report noted that this spending does not include automobile-related sales such as gas purchases. Spending through e-commerce is expected to fall by 6.6% as a year-over-year figure, but will increase by 53.2% over 2019.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Monday that Ohio's unemployment rate was 5.0%in May, up from 4.7% in April, as the state saw a decrease of 14,800 nonagricultural wage and salary jobs over the month.

For the week ending June 19, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 12,953 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is lower than last week, when the department reported 15,866 jobless claims.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

A series of high-profile measures got intertwined and shifted among various bills this week as the House and Senate tried to secure key priorities and parry late-breaking amendments. Two federal COVID funding measures already enacted via their companion bills were converted wholesale to new purposes and passed out of the General Assembly's finance committees Tuesday. The Senate Finance Committee passed legislation to use approximately $1.5 billion in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act money to pay off Ohio's unemployment compensation debt to the federal government. The committee amended HB168 (Fraizer-Loychik), originally a federal COVID relief measure for small businesses, fairs, child care providers and veterans homes, to strip its original language and insert the payoff plan. [That earlier language had been approved in HB168's companion bill SB109 (Manning-Rulli).] The House Finance Committee followed suit, except that committee gutted SB111 (Blessing-Brenner), substituting the original funding for pandemic relief for schools with nearly $422 million in ARP funds for FY22 "for non-entitlement units of local governments" including "cities, villages and townships, on a population basis ....” The original provisions of SB111 had already been passed in companion bill HB170 (Bird-Richardson) and signed into law by the governor. But on the House floor Thursday, Republicans amended SB111 to include a prohibition on employer mandates involving any vaccine not fully approved by the FDA. They also amended a Senate bill on college athletes’ name, image and likeness (NIL) rights, SB187 (Antani), to include a ban on transgender girls' participation in girls' sports.

The Senate balked, putting the local government funding from SB111 into HB168, and amending HB29 (Wiggam), a veterans ID bill, to include the NIL legislation, as well as an attempted compromise on the Senate’s sports gambling bill, SB176 (Antani-Manning). House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) maintained Thursday the skepticism he expressed about a sports gambling deal earlier this week, calling it "an extremely high lift" and saying the House hasn't yet had hearings on the measure. He said Reps. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) monitored Senate action on the bill, and said the House has heard from interested parties who have raised concerns.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The House Health Committee heard opponent testimony from groups including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association on vaccine mandate ban bill HB248 (Gross) Tuesday, with the groups saying that prohibiting employers and businesses from mandating vaccines for their employees infringes on employer rights to maintain safe workplaces.

The final set of Vax-a-Million winners were announced Wednesday evening, with Cincinnati resident Esperanza Diaz winning the $1 million prize and Sydney Daum of Brecksville (Cuyahoga County) winning the full-ride scholarship to an Ohio public college or university. Nearly 3.4 million Ohioans entered for the cash prize, according to the state, while 154,889 entered the scholarship drawing. This included an increase of 41,028 adults and 4,702 students in the past week.

TREASURER OF STATE

Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague announced Monday that the city of Kirtland and village of Newton Falls (Trumbull County) had achieved cost savings through refinancing in the Ohio Market Access Program administered by his office. "Our local governments are always working to complete important infrastructure projects, and OMAP helps them to do so at a lower cost," Sprague said. "Kirtland has been one of our longstanding partners in the program, and we're proud to provide this ongoing support."

WORKFORCE

A new OhioMeansJobs.com resource called "SkillsMatch" can connect those seeking employment with potential opportunities by using resume information, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said during a Tuesday meeting of the Governor's Executive Workforce Board.