Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he wants to use a portion of the more than $5 billion in American Rescue Plan relief funds to pay off the state’s $1.46 billion unemployment compensation loan from the federal government.
“I am recommending to the General Assembly we use a portion of our federal COVID relief and recovery dollars to pay off the unemployment insurance loan owed to the federal government,” said DeWine at the Thursday, April 8, coronavirus update.
The state requested and received a $3.1 billion line of credit from the federal government in June 2020 as unemployment claims exploded during the pandemic. Over the past 55 weeks, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has distributed over $9.3 billion in unemployment compensation payments to over 984,000 Ohioans.
Eliminating Ohio’s unemployment loan balance, according to a statement from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, would stave off an employer tax increase in 2022 of more than $100 million and a subsequent $658 million in total tax increases over a three-year period that would be needed to pay the loan.
“This loan was caused by the global pandemic. Paying this off now will free Ohio employers from this burden so they can instead focus on getting employees across our state back to work,” DeWine said.
The governor’s announcement come as Ohio received some good economic news. Ohio’s unemployment rate for February was 5%, which was better than the national rate of 6.2%. The state’s gross domestic product at 5% growth also outpaced the national rate, which saw 4% growth in the final quarter of 2020.
Ohio’s tax revenues also continue to exceed monthly estimates and remain 4.3% above those estimates for the fiscal year-to-date, DeWine said.
The good economic news comes with a mixed bag of health news across the state. Ohio marked the second week that everyone 16 years and older is eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. As of Thursday, nearly 4 million, or a third of all Ohioans, had received at least one dose.
Ohio, however, is nowhere near the benchmark set by the governor for all state health orders to be lifted. The state health department reported there were 183.7 cases per 100,000 residents this week, a significant distance from the 50 per 100,000 needed to rescind all mandates.
New variants, including one that is highly contagious and more deadly, are driving this case uptick, and the number of variant cases are doubling every nine to 10 days, according to Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio’s chief medical officer.
The state, according to the Ohio Department of Health report on Thursday, April 8, saw increases in new COVID-19 cases at 2,742 in the past 24 hours and 111 new daily hospitalizations for a total of 1,193 statewide. Intensive care unit admissions increased by 21.
“Again, we are not going into the direction we want,” DeWine said, adding that more than half of the state’s 88 counties, 53 of them, saw cases increase in the past week.
The governor continued to stress the need for every Ohioan who can to get vaccinated and encouraged providers to partner to set up clinics with high schools, churches and other work and social organizations.