DeWine proposes $1 billion to offset pandemic harm


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - Associated Press



COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Small businesses and local communities would receive hundreds of millions of dollars to help with recovery from the coronavirus pandemic under a $1 billion initiative announced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine that also includes aggressive marketing of Ohio as a place to work and live.

The small business aid includes $20 million for businesses that opened only last year, while money for communities includes $250 million to boost broadband access for Ohioans who lack it, DeWine said as he promoted the initiative as a key element of his proposed two-year state budget.

The initiative also includes spending $50 million on promotion of the state as a place where people can move to, work and raise their families.

That money will help “tell a national audience about Ohio’s excellent career opportunities, top-tier colleges and universities, amazing getaways, and the inviting communities we have for people to call home,” DeWine said.

The $1 billion comes from a combination of savings through a reduced workforce and frozen state spending, along with an increase in federal Medicaid dollars. It’s meant as a one-time investment only, the governor said.

Recovery from the pandemic was expected to be a key theme of the budget plan, including economy recovery dollars and spending on the state’s public health system, along with traditional funding for schools and public colleges and universities, the state prison system, and everything from parks to water quality.

Last month, DeWine ordered $390 million across-the-board budget cuts for the rest of the fiscal year, citing the ongoing economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But DeWine also released $260 million for schools and universities, noting the revenue shortfall this year wasn’t as bad as last year.

The two-year budget pays for a vast chunk of Ohio government programs, from funding for schools and universities, the cost of running parks and prisons, and the price tag of Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care system for poor children and families.

House lawmakers will consider the plan first and produce their own proposal. The Senate comes next, and a final plan approved by the House, Senate and DeWine must be signed into law by July 1.

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Contributing to this report was Farnoush Amiri, a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

Associated Press