by J.D. Davidson
Believing the state’s economy continues to move in a positive direction, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine thinks it’s time for payback.
DeWine recently recommended the General Assembly use nearly a quarter of the expected $5 billion in federal stimulus money on its way to Ohio to repay loans the state needed to balance its unemployment compensation fund as jobless claims skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“This loan was caused by the global pandemic, and paying it off now will free Ohio employers from this burden so they can instead focus on getting employees across our state back to work,” DeWine said. “This will help small business owners and employees, and I look forward to working with our partners in the General Assembly on legislation to pay off the loan.”
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who often takes the lead with business or economic issues in the DeWine administration, said loan repayment would save Ohio businesses $1.9 million in federal unemployment tax in 2022, more than $200 million in 2023 and more than $300 million in 2024.
“If you put that into reality for a lot of small businesses that are really still struggling, we want to save our small businesses,” Husted said. “We don’t want to be reliant on these national companies for everything. We need Ohio companies. Instead, they can use this savings to hire people and to provide wages and benefits to their employees.”
House and Senate Republicans are in the midst of hearings on their proposed two-year budget plan, and legislative oversight on spending stimulus money is part of the budget plan.
The GOP budget proposal calls for more oversight and government accountability through a Joint Legislative Oversight and Review Committee of Federal COVID Relief Aid.
DeWine also pointed toward several signs he said shows positive steps in terms of economic recovery, including an expected 2.6% jump in estimated tax revenue for April and a 4.3% increase above the fiscal year-to-date expectations.
The state’s February unemployment rate of 5% was below the national rate of 6.2%.
“I made these hard choices early on, tightening our belt because we did not know what the future held,” DeWine said. “A strong post-pandemic economy directly depends on defeating the virus, and as we are working hard to vaccinate Ohioans, we are seeing good signs in our economy as well.”
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.