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Week in Review: Aug. 8, 2021

Written on Aug 6, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

AUDITOR OF STATE

Nearly 80% of local governments in Ohio were better off financially at the end of 2020 than they were at the beginning of the year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Auditor Keith Faber told reporters Thursday. Faber held a roundtable discussion with Statehouse reporters in his ceremonial office where he weighed in on everything from his office's overall functions, to the Ohio Redistricting Commission he is a member of, to the problems with Ohio's unemployment compensation system, which Faber's office is currently reviewing through two separate audits. On local governments' weathering the pandemic, Faber said most Ohio cities and counties ended 2020 with more money than they started, with the average of their carry forward balances increasing by 20%.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

Ohio's efforts to distribute federal COVID-19 relief funds continue, with the newly renamed Department of Development (DOD) reviewing applications for the business grant programs created in SB108 (S. Huffman- Romanchuk) and SB109 (Manning-Rulli). The state budget -- HB110 (Oelslager) -- doubled the total funding for the four programs from $155 million to $310 million, and DOD has already received 8,229 applications requesting approximately $135.6 million as of July 28. "I strongly encourage Ohio's small and medium-sized business owners to apply for these grants," Gov. Mike DeWine said. "Funding is set aside for businesses in all of Ohio's 88 counties and grants range from $10,000 to $30,000 apiece. As we continue our recovery from the pandemic, we want to give our local businesses this money to help them successfully move forward."

CORONAVIRUS

Ohio is again seeing a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, registering 895 new cases on Monday, 1,769 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and another 2,167 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also updated its count of Ohio counties at a "high" or "substantial" transmission rate for which indoor masking is recommended, bringing that to 67 in total on Tuesday. That total included 17 counties at a high level and 50 at a substantial level. The new "high transmission" list includes Adams, Allen, Ashland, Clinton, Defiance, Fairfield, Fulton, Gallia, Greene, Highland, Lawrence, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Scioto, Shelby and Williams counties.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Health reported Wednesday another 11,794 individuals had started the vaccination in the last day, taking the total in the state who have started a vaccine to 5,801,034 or 49.63% of Ohio's population.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

For the week ending July 31, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 10,740 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is slightly higher than the previous week, when the department reported 10,603 jobless claims. Ohioans filed 148,607 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 7,328 fewer than the previous week, ODJFS said.

FEDERAL

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) spoke to reporters during his weekly teleconference on a bipartisan infrastructure bill, saying he believes it will help finally address the aging Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati to Kentucky. Portman said he hopes it will clear the chamber by the end of this week or early next week. He highlighted some of the provisions of the bill, including $110 billion over five years for new roads and bridges. Under the current formula in the bill, Portman said $11.5 billion of that will come to Ohio.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Local governments and organizations can now apply for $250 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to address water infrastructure needs, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday. The Ohio Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Grant Program is open to public and non-public entities that operate water systems across the state, with an emphasis placed on addressing the needs of economically-disadvantaged communities, according to the governor's office.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) FY21 net portfolio return was 14.4 percent, BWC Investment Committee Chair Mark Palmer said Friday. BWC Board of Directors Chair Chan Cochran praised BWC's investment team for achieving the "spectacular" results in FY21.