COLUMBUS— As many Ohioans will be called back to work in May, many will be faced with impossible decisions related to work, health and family as this ongoing pandemic continues: how to return to work when you have children at home and no one to care for them with daycares and schools closed; how to keep those high-risk individuals who will remain quarantined safe when workers return home; and what protections exist for workers in and out of the workplace or who do fall ill with COVID-19.
“Today is International Workers’ Day, a celebration of laborers and working people. Workers at some of the biggest corporations in the United States are planning an unprecedented wave of strikes on May 1, International Workers’ Day. Employees will walk off the job demanding compensation for unpaid time off work, hazard pay, sick leave, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies at workplaces. I stand in solidarity with these workers,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights).
“As the richest country in the world, no one should have to worry about providing for their family or risk going into an unsafe working environment as a condition of employment. I have introduced two paid sick leave bills to ensure that short-term and long-term relief will be provided to workers and their families. No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck. My legislation also addresses something that is too often ignored- toxic stress, which derails healthy development and increases the likelihood of illness.”
House Democrats renew their call to return to the statehouse to tackle important COVID-related issues that would help working families such as:
1.Expand paid family and sick leave policies for more workers.
- HB 91 (Boggs, Boyd) – Establishes the Family and Medical Leave insurance program to provide 12 weeks of leave to workers.
- HB 593 (Boyd, Boggs) - Requires paid leave for an employee who is unable to work due to quarantine or mandatory isolation.
2. Address childcare concerns of working parents
- Employers should be flexible with employees who have childcare needs
- Plan for opening daycare
- Ensure childcare is available and affordable, and that payments to providers are timely.
- Use great caution before returning students to school buildings to avoid public health and economic consequences.
3.Expand Broadband Access to Help Ohioans Work and Learn from Home
o HB 13 (O’Brien, Cafragna) – Establishes a residential broad expansion program to increase access to internet services throughout the state
4. Protect workers in the workplace
o Appeal process for employees who are at high-risk for illness, ability to keep them at home if they can stay home without losing their jobs or access to unemployment compensation
- Temporarily expand telework opportunities for high-risk staff or those whose job duties that can be done remotely to reduce in-person staff size as much as possible
5. Extend Workers Compensation Coverage to Frontline Workers
o HB 571 (Boggs) – Makes COVID-19 contracted by a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker an occupational disease under the Workers' Compensation Law during declared COVID emergency.
o HB 573 (Sobecki, Boggs) – Makes COVID-19 an occupational disease covered under the Workers' Compensation Law for individuals required to work outside the home during the declared emergency.
o HB 605 (Kelly, Patton) – Makes COVID-19 contracted by an employee of a retail food establishment or food processing establishment an occupational disease under the Workers' Compensation Law
6.Support Small Businesses
- Create a “main street” grant program to provide small-dollar grants to small businesses, such as bars and restaurants to help them pay utility, rent, insurance, and payroll costs
- Enhance existing Development Services Agency loan programs, such as the minority business bonding and direct loan programs, and the capital access program, to help small and minority-owned businesses acquire resources necessary to grow.
7.Expand innovation within the healthcare industry to eliminate surprise billing, expand telehealth and protect those with pre-exiting conditions
- HB 580 (Liston, Patton) – In public health emergency, telehealth services can replace all covered in-person services should the practitioner deem it necessary for patient safety at the same re-imbursement rate.
- HB 579 (Russo) – requires health plan issuers cover COVID-19 test and treatment; eliminates surprise billing during an emergency
- HB 390 (Crossman, Clites) – protect healthcare coverage of those with pre-existing conditions
8. Ensure Residents Can Stay in Their Homes, and Keep All Utilities Connected
o HB 562 (Leland, Crossman) – Prohibits foreclosure activity and the eviction of residential and commercial tenants during the state of emergency declared regarding COVID-19.
o HB 564 (Leland) – Prevents disconnection of all utilities, including gas, electric, and sewer services, during the emergency as a result of inability to pay
o HB 576 (Rogers, Crossman) – Temporarily abate the charging of interest and penalties against tax-delinquent homesteads and suspend tax foreclosure proceedings and tax certificate sales regarding such homesteads
9.Relieve Ohioans from Debt
- HB 603 (Ingram, Lightbody) – waives interest rates and suspends payments on state student loan programs for up to sixty days, and requires that a study be conducted to assist institutions of higher education and students during the emergency.
- HB 596 (West) – Halts debt collection.
- HB 597 (Ingram, Miranda) – Halts debt collection/freezes interest against state universities.
Additionally, House Democrats are advocating for more funding for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Unemployment Compensation Administration Fund to ensure they have what they need to process the massive influx of new claims. They also advocate for a budget corrections bill that will address the immediate budget shortfall as FY20 comes to an end, but also a long-term fiscal plan for FY21 and beyond to protect and prioritize programs that help vulnerable populations who have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis.