The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow all businesses to stay open during a health emergency as long as the business can comply with government regulations.
The bill, passed 77-17, “provides businesses with stability and ease of mind in the future by ensuring all businesses are deemed essential,” according to the bill’s sponsors, state Reps. Jon Cross (R-83-Kenton) and Shane Wilkin (R-91-Hillsboro).
Although the bill, dubbed the Business Fairness Act, saw bipartisan support, all of the votes against it were Democrat, according to a voting breakdown provided by the Ohio Legislature.
“Small business owners had their worlds turned upside down when they were forced to shut down last year,” Cross said in a statement. “Getting this bill signed into law will send a strong message that Ohio will remain open for business and keep our economy moving forward.”
The Business Fairness Act was originally introduced last year, passing the House in November. The current bill now moves to the Senate.
Ohio saw unemployment rates in the double digits during the pandemic as executive order shut down wide swaths of industry. Rates spiked in April 2020 at 17.6 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. More recent rates have returned to nearly pre-pandemic levels, with a rate of 4.7 percent in March 2021. The rate in February 2020 was 4.1 percent.
Despite improving rates, Ohio has continued to offer additional support for those who are unemployed. The Department of Job and Family Services announced an expanded Re-employment Services and Eligibility Assessment program, with the state receiving $5.6 million in federal support for the program.
The program will help employees seek additional training and certification, provide direct referrals to job openings and offer job search and readiness services.
“We are committed to using every tool at our disposal, including the RESEA program, to help unemployed Ohioans return to work and further the state’s economic recovery,” said ODJFS Interim Director Matt Damschroder in a statement. “Now is the time for Ohioans to acquire new skills before the federal expansion of unemployment benefits ends.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Ohio Star and the Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair.
Photo “Jon Cross” by The Ohio House of Representatives and photo “Shane Wilkin” by The Ohio House of Representatives.