Week in review: Sept. 20, 2020

Provided by Hannah News Service

AGRICULTURE

Because of revenue shortfalls and other problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has scaled back its efforts to help Northwest Ohio farmers finance best management practices to reduce harmful algal blooms, according to Ohio Lake Erie Commission Director Joy Mulinex and the recently-released H2Ohio annual report.

ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Independent music and entertainment venues across the country would be eligible to receive millions of dollars in grants under the "Save Our Stages Act," which is co-sponsored by both U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The bill, introduced by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in July, includes a $10 billion appropriation, and eligible recipients can receive up to $12 million. The bill has been referred to committee but hasn't moved.

CORONAVIRUS

A committee within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released a discussion draft of its "Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine." Although a vaccine has not yet been approved to protect against the novel coronavirus, several are currently undergoing development. The report states that even if one or more vaccines is deemed safe and effective, "they are unlikely to be available immediately in amounts sufficient to vaccinate the whole population, despite plans to begin large-scale production of promising vaccines even before trials are completed." Therefore the framework seeks to establish an ethical method of allocating of vaccines, given the high likelihood of limited supplies.

A cardiac MRI is effective in identifying inflammation of the heart muscle in athletes and can help determine when those who have recovered from COVID-19 can safely return to play in competitive sports, according to a new study by researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The research is published online in JAMA Cardiology.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Ohio has jumped to second place in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report on aerospace manufacturing, after being ranked eighth in PwC's 2019 report. The report highlighted Ohio's work in becoming a "hub" for development of urban air mobility and autonomous aviation systems.

ECONOMY

A survey published Monday by Scioto Analysis found only eight of 36 Ohio economists believe legislation that shields businesses and organizations from liability relating to injury and death resulting from COVID-19 will be effective in speeding up the state's economic recovery. This came as Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB606 (Grendell), which grants civil immunity to individuals and other entities from lawsuits arising from exposure, transmission, or contraction of COVID-19 if they were not showing reckless, intentional or willful misconduct.

EDUCATION

The state's dashboard on COVID-19 cases in schools went live Thursday, with Gov. DeWine saying it provides parents with another source of information but cautioning that positive cases may not reflect a failure on the part of school officials given the level of community spread around Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health also has a dashboard on general cases involving children, and both are available at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/dashboards/overview.

ELECTIONS 2020

With 49 days to go until Election Day, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that 1,398,347 absentee ballot applications had been received by county boards of elections statewide. This includes 15,806 requests from military and overseas voters whose absentee ballots will be mailed beginning Sept. 18.

Voting in the 2020 presidential election will begin on Friday, Sept. 18 as Ohioans who are serving in the military or are overseas will be sent their absentee ballots. All Ohio voters can cast absentee ballots beginning Oct. 6.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

JobsOhio Chief Investment Officer J.P. Nauseef joined Gov. Mike DeWine’s Tuesday briefing to describe the new Ohio To Work initiative, which will match out-of-work people with a career coach to help identify their skills and direct them toward new careers and the training they'll need to get a job. The effort will launch in Cuyahoga County, with more than 30 employers participating at the outset, and DeWine said he hopes to expand the program statewide. The initiative will also coordinate virtual career fairs. More information is available at www.ohiotowork.com.

For the week ending Sept. 12, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 16,294 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. Last week, ODJFS reported 17,893 new jobless claims. "Ohioans filed 320,532 continued jobless claims last week, which was 455,770 fewer than – or less than half (about 41%) – of the peak earlier this year," the department said.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Dr. Joan Duwve, who quit as Ohio's next health director hours after Gov. Mike DeWine announced her hiring, told The State in South Carolina that she declined the job after finding out how former Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton was treated during her tenure.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Marion Technical College received its first grant from the National Science Foundation for $477,868. The grant is to fund a new Smart Manufacturing program.

INSURANCE

The Ohio Department of Insurance is holding a series of Medicare information sessions now through Wednesday, Oct. 14 to educate Ohioans on how to navigate applying for health insurance coverage through the state. Open enrollment in the state's Medicaid program starts Thursday, Oct. 15 and ends Monday, Dec. 7. A full list of webinars and registration information is available at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/4987248812118591502.

PENSIONS

The School Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees voted Thursday to approve a 0.5% cost-of-living adjustment for beneficiaries in 2021, matching the increase in the inflation benchmark spelled out in law. The board had previously frozen COLAs from 2018 through 2020 to shore up long-term finances, following enactment of new law in the FY18-19 budget bill, 132-HB49 (R. Smith), that made COLAs discretionary rather than mandatory and tied them to the growth in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners, with a cap of 2.5%. The CPI-W growth for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was 0.5%, SERS Executive Director Richard Stensrud noted.

TREASURER OF STATE

Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague Thursday said the state should direct at least $100 million from its remaining federal CARES Act allocation to provide grants for small businesses, calling that "much-needed support and relief" given the effects of the pandemic. Several leading business associations, including the National Federation of Independent Business of Ohio and the Ohio Restaurant Association, have already backed the proposal. Sprague's office noted restaurants "continue to be adversely impacted by the challenges and uncertainty" of the pandemic.

UNIONS

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling that allowed non-members to forego paying union fees did not end the ability for an Ohio public-sector union to be deemed the exclusive bargaining representative for employees, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled recently. While the "take-it-or-leave-it" exclusive bargaining arrangement "is in direct conflict" with the principles of the union fee case, Janus v. AFSCME, that ruling did not override separate Supreme Court precedent on bargaining representation, Judge Amul Thapar wrote for the three-judge panel including Judges Julia Smith Gibbons and Richard Griffin. Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher at Marietta High School and widow of the late Rep. Andy Thompson, sued over the district's recognition of the Marietta Education Association as exclusive bargaining representative for the district's teachers. She alleged it violated her First Amendment rights.

WORKFORCE

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Defense had approved a $5 million grant to help Ohio entities with improving defense manufacturing processes and training workers for next-generation jobs. The DoD previously designated Ohio as a "Defense Manufacturing Community" as part of the process toward securing the grant. The DMC designation and grant are part of "a program designed to support long-term community investments that strengthen national security innovation and expand the capabilities of defense manufacturing," according to the DeWine administration.

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