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Week in Review: Aug. 22, 2021

Written on Aug 20, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

FY22-23 BUDGET

Legislative, executive and advocacy leaders unpacked details of the recently adopted state budget Wednesday in a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum where they debated whether the spending plan meets the moment and properly prioritizes the needs of Ohioans. The panel included House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), Senate President Pro Tem Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks and Executive Director Hannah Halbert of Policy Matters Ohio. Much of the discussion focused on the familiar debate about whether continued income tax cuts -- a primarily 3% across the board in HB110 (Oelslager), plus elimination of another bracket and an increase to the earnings threshold for paying income tax in the first place -- boost economic growth or squander revenue needed for public services.

CORONAVIRUS

Solid organ transplant recipients, people with advanced HIV, some cancer patients and others considered to be severely immunocompromised are now eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Chief Medical Officer and Director Bruce Vanderhoff said Friday. "This is a recommendation for a very small group of individuals," Vanderhoff said during a Zoom press conference, noting the group is estimated to include less than 3% of the Ohio population. However, by midweek, federal public health officials announced plans to begin COVID-19 booster shots the week of Monday, Sept. 20 for everyone as vaccine effectiveness can wane over time, particularly given the spread of the Delta variant. The plan is pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Booster shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines will be available to adults eight months after their second shot, ensuring those prioritized for shots first have similar booster access. Plans are being developed for those who received a single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, and the FDA and ACIP review could lead to guidance on booster shots for eligible minors.

As students across the state return to school, officials with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) are encouraging schools to implement masking, social distancing and vaccination protocols that protect children and prevent the need for extensive quarantining. Ohio schools and hospitals can avoid the problems occurring in Florida and other states where masks are optional in schools, ODH Director Bruce Vanderhoff said during a press conference Wednesday. The state's top doctor warned that the Delta variant is continuing to spread throughout the state, mostly among the unvaccinated,

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that long-term care facilities will be required to ensure all staff are vaccinated in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding, as part of remarks on his administration's plan for COVID-19 booster shots. The booster shot plan will include direct shipments to long-term care facilities, according to federal public health officials, and is slated to begin Monday, Sept. 20 pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). People would receive a third dose eight months after their second one. Plans for Johnson & Johnson recipients are being developed.

On Thursday, Aug. 19, according to ODH, 3,446 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the last 24 hours, which is the highest number of new cases in months. There have been 170 hospitalizations and 10 intensive care unit admissions in the last 24 hours, ODH said on its coronavirus website.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Google announced Thursday that it will invest $1 billion in a "substantial" expansion of the data center in New Albany in Central Ohio and has further acquired 618 acres in Columbus and Lancaster for potential future data center locations. Google also announced Thursday that it would establish a "Google Cloud" region in Columbus, joining the existing network of seven regions in the U.S. and 27 worldwide. These can provide faster services so that Google Cloud Platform enterprise customers can operate more reliably and at higher speeds.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

For the week ending Aug. 14, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 9,684 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. The number is lower than last week, when the department reported 10,581 jobless claims. Ohioans filed 142,750 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 1,052 fewer than the previous week, ODJFS said.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

With the Ohio Redistricting Commission holding 10 public hearings next week to take testimony on the drawing of new General Assembly districts, House and Senate Democrats from Toledo and Cincinnati held separate virtual news conferences this week -- joined in both cases by representatives of the Equal Districts Coalition -- urging citizens to show up and participate in the public hearings. In Toledo, Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo), and Michael Sheehy called for fairer maps for the General Assembly and in Congress in this round of redistricting. The legislators noted that their city is included in the infamous "Snake on the Lake" district under the current congressional map, requiring U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) to represent a district that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland along Lake Erie. In Cincinnati, Desiree Tims, president and CEO of Innovation Ohio, one of the members of the Equal Districts Coalition, discussed the importance of fair maps for that area, noting one woman whose home in the current map that she said is split between the 1st and 2nd congressional districts. She said under a fairer map, Cincinnati should be anchoring its own congressional district, not split apart with nearby counties. She was joined by Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Reps. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati), Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati), Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) and Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati), as well as Katy Shanahan, the state director of All on the Line Ohio, another member of the Equal Districts Coalition.

WORKFORCE

Over 103,400 Ohioans currently work in the clean energy and vehicles sectors, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs and the Clean Energy Trust, and legislation being considered at the federal level could add thousands of additional jobs through increased investment in these sectors. The report found that clean energy businesses were "hit hard" by the pandemic and resulting economic downturn in 2020, which represented the first year-to-year decline since the two organizations began tracking the Ohio clean energy industry.