by Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Small businesses, bars and restaurants, low-income renters, arts groups, and colleges and universities are among those eligible for $429 million in federal pandemic dollars being released by the state next week, Gov. Mike DeWine and his fellow Republican legislative leaders announced Friday.
The aid package, which the governor has promised for several weeks, is scheduled to go before a bipartisan state legislative spending panel Monday. Its passage is assured with the backing of House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Larry Obhof, who joined the governor at Friday’s virtual news conference.
The announcement came on a day when the Ohio Health Department reported 2,518 probable and confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the third consecutive day of record-high daily cases in the state.
And even as DeWine continued urging people to take measures like wearing masks and socially distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, he found himself answering questions about an alleged plot to kidnap him, similar to a plot foiled this month against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol, which oversees the governor’s security, is investigating allegations contained in a report made to the Piqua Police Department, said patrol spokesman Lt. Craig Cvetan. “For security reasons, the Patrol does not discuss the details of threats or safety issues involving the governor,” Cvetan said. Piqua is in southwestern Ohio.
DeWine said he had no details about the plot, reported more than a week ago. The governor wouldn’t discuss any aspect of his security.
“We’re going to continue to do what we need to do every day,” said DeWine, who called such plots despicable.
“We are a country, a state, of the rule of law,” he added. “A long tradition of that. Anybody who wants to violate that or go around that we all have a responsibility to denounce.”
The pandemic aid is to be broken down in several ways. For example, $125 million will go to small businesses of no more than 25 employees in the form of $10,000 grants to help with everything from wages to mortgages to equipment.
“We’re all in this together,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who oversees the state’s economic recovery efforts. “This is just another demonstration that we appreciate what our small businesses do in the state.”
Bars and restaurants, which are also eligible for the small business grants, are eligible for $2,500 each for a total of $37.5 million. That amounts to about 15,000 grants.
Another $62 million will be distributed to rural and critical access hospitals for expenses related to the coronavirus epidemic, including the purchase of personal protective equipment like gowns, gloves and medical masks.
The package also provides $25 million for nonprofits and another $20 million for arts groups, which the governor called among the state’s “jewels.”
“Many arts organizations have also been hit hard, and these dollars will help,” DeWine said.
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