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Rep. Sweeney pushes governor to fund emergency benefits for Ohio workers affected by coronavirus outbreak

March 13, 2020
Bride Rose Sweeney News

COLUMBUS—State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) today called on Gov. Mike DeWine to use his executive authority to release funds to create a temporary, emergency paid leave program for Ohio workers affected by the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Sweeney’s call follows two letters sent this week on behalf of the caucus pushing for benefits to ensure the economic security of Ohio families.

“To slow the spread of this virus, we have to ensure that hardworking Ohioans don’t have to choose between their financial security and the health of their family,” said Rep. Sweeney. “An emergency sick leave program would allow workers to make the best possible choices for themselves, as the Governor has called on each of us to do. I am confident that the days ahead will bring out the best in ourselves and in communities across Ohio.”

DeWine this week announced nearly a half-dozen confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio and moved to shut down K-12 schools, limit access to nursing homes and prison facilities, and ban large, public gatherings of 100 or more people. Numerous businesses and organizations have implemented telecommuting policies, including cabinet-level agencies in Ohio.

Sweeney and House Dems continue to raise concerns, however, about the impact the outbreak is having on lower-income workers, including food and retail workers, nurses and other hourly workers who have to take off work, oftentimes without pay, to care for themselves, a sick loved one, or children out of school following the governor’s announced “extended spring break” for K-12 students.

Dems have urged DeWine to create a temporary sick leave program using his executive powers to use general revenue funding; increase and appropriate funds in the Controlling Board’s Emergency Purposes Fund; tap into the Budget Stabilization Fund, which is near-capacity; or utilize reserve TANF funds that have historically been used for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances.

Illinois implemented a similar plan earlier this week.  

Sweeney also noted that paid family and medical leave has long been a Democratic priority, having been introduced in numerous General Assemblies, including House Bill 91, introduced in 2019.

That bill has had just two hearings.