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

Says emergency paid leave program would ensure economic security for everyday Ohioans
March 13, 2020
Mary Lightbody News

COLUMBUS—State Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) 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. Lightbody’s call follows two letters sent this week on behalf of the caucus pushing for benefits to ensure the economic security of Ohio families.

“In my district, there are many businesses that are going to be hard hit by social distancing, and many single parents and families with school age children and no paid family leave who face a very difficult choice,” said Rep. Lightbody. “If they stay home to take care of their young children, they run the risk of losing their jobs and having zero income far longer than three weeks.  Many working families were already a paycheck away from potential financial disaster, and this virus will put them over the top.  Governments have a responsibility to help their citizens in moments of crisis, and this may well be one.  We have a healthy rainy day fund.  Some help now will provide the cushion needed for the poor and hard-working Ohioans through the virus emergency, and I urge the Governor to help our people through this with financial help.” 

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.

Lightbody 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.   

Lightbody 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.