The Ohio General Assembly has given the go-ahead to spend more than $4 billion of federal COVID-19 relief money despite calls from Democrats for Gov. Mike DeWine to veto parts of the plan.
DeWine praised the passage of House Bill 169, calling the funds critical to the state’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic.
“I applaud the legislature’s swift action to pass this important bill as we work together to protect our citizens and first responders, keep qualified Ohioans on the job, and help those who have been hit hard as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” DeWine said in a statement after the bill passed Thursday. “These critical funds will make our communities safer, will help caregivers, teachers, and others in front-line professions to stay on the job, and will help those struggling to pay their bills remain in their homes.”
While Democratic leadership generally applauded the plan, the House Democratic Caucus urged DeWine to veto a provision that would end the state’s Step Up to Quality Program, which requires child care centers to participate in the statewide rating system in order to receive public funds.
Democrats said removing the requirement would hurt accessibility to quality, affordable child care options.
Republicans added the change late in the legislative process.
“The suspension of this requirement does not solve the issues faced by Ohio families in accessing affordable childcare or create a long-term solution for providers,” Democrats wrote in a letter to DeWine. “The late addition of this provision would be an ineffective policy opposed by advocates and a detriment to the use of taxpayer dollars to provide quality early childhood education to all Ohio children. The need for these funds is clear to Ohioans and should not be held in the balance at the expense of our children and families.”
The bill includes:
• $2.48 billion for K-12 schools;
• $1.05 billion to help health care providers hire and retain employees;
• $639 million in supplemental child care grants to help the hiring and retention of staff and improve access to child care;
• $250 million in grants for law enforcement agencies;
• $91.1 million for the Department of Health for the COVID-19 pandemic and to address other public health priorities;
• $7.3 million to prevent youth homelessness.
“This is timely, bipartisan legislation that will ensure we are bringing the full power and resources of the United States to bear against the public health crisis that has upended every aspect of our society,” Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, said. “Learning loss from the pandemic has been devastating, and we cannot allow our children, who are the future of Ohio, to continue to fall behind. That’s why almost 60% of this bill, nearly 2.5 billion dollars, will go towards education.”