COLUMBUS—House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today applauded Gov. Mike DeWine as he signed into law House Bill (HB) 197, which will provide needed supports to working people, families and businesses in Ohio amid the coronavirus outbreak. It passed both legislative chambers unanimously Wednesday.
“This bipartisan legislation will begin to ease some of the hardship facing working people, families and businesses during this crisis,” said Leader Sykes. “While we know that we everything will not be addressed in one bill, this is the first step to returning some normalcy to our lives by ensuring government continues to work for the people.”
HB 197 contains several long-held Democratic priorities, such as expanded unemployment benefits for Ohioans out of work as a result of the coronavirus, an extension of absentee voting for the Ohio primary to April 28, and commonsense solutions to support K-12 education and healthcare access for all Ohioans.
“This crisis has shown what Democrats have known for some time—that we have real holes in our social safety net that need to be addressed to ensure we’re prepared for the next crisis,” said Sykes. “In the meantime, Democrats will continue to listen to those on the front lines, our constituents, and work together to ensure our first responders, healthcare workers and families have all the tools they need during this crisis.”
Other key components of HB 197 include:
- Moving state tax deadline from April 15 to July 15;
- Prohibiting water shutoffs for Ohio consumers during crisis;
- Suspending staff-to-child ratios and maximum group sizes at child-care centers;
- Giving the Director of Medicaid additional flexibility to support the health care workforce and providers during crisis;
- Allowing recent nursing graduates to obtain a temporary license to practice prior to passing the licensure examination;
- Waiving state testing for the 19-20 school year and allowing students to graduate who were already on track to do so;
- Exempting schools from food processing requirements to ensure children have access to nutrition even if their school is closed;
- Limiting EdChoice school buildings for 20-21 to those eligible in 19-20;
- Allowing schools to use distance learning to make up for missed days or hours of instruction caused by statewide K-12 closures;
- Allowing licensed special education providers to serve students through tele-health and other electronic communications methods;
- Extending validity of state licenses and providing a 90-day renewal period;
- Permitting public bodies to meet electronically as long as the public has ability to participate as well;
With the governor’s signing, the bill becomes effective immediately.