COLUMBUS — Last week, Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, and Dr. Amy Acton provided the following updates on Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State budget impact
Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, Governor DeWine on Monday announced $775 million in reductions to Ohio’s General Revenue Fund for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020 which ends on June 30.
At the end of February and prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, state revenues for the fiscal year were ahead of estimates by over $200 million. As of the end of April, Ohio’s revenues were below the budgeted estimates by $776.9 million.
Because Ohio is mandated to balance its budget each year, and in addition to identifying areas of savings, the following budget reductions will be made for the next two months:
•Medicaid: $210 million
•K12 Foundation Payment Reduction: $300 million
•Other Education Budget Line Items: $55 million
•Higher Education: $110 million
•All Other Agencies: $100 million
“Decisions like these are extremely difficult, but they are decisions that are part of my responsibility, as your governor, to make,” said Governor DeWine. “We believe that instituting these cuts now will provide the most stability moving forward, however I am greatly concerned about the cuts we must make in education. We have an obligation to our schools to give them as much predictability as we can, but if we don’t make these cuts now, future cuts would be more dramatic.”
The budget reductions are in addition to Governor DeWine’s March 23 directive to freeze hiring, new contracts, pay increases, and promotions at all state agencies, boards, and commissions.
The new budget reductions will not apply to critical services available to Ohioans or COVID-19 pandemic services. Money to balance the Fiscal Year 2020 budget will not be drawn from Ohio’s Budget Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as the “rainy-day fund.”
“I know that I have said that ‘it’s raining,’ but we do not want to tap into the rainy-day fund yet,” said Governor DeWine. “The ‘rain’ is not a passing spring shower – it could be a long, cold, lingering storm, and we should not use the fund until it is necessary.”
Projections by Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks indicate that the state’s revenues will continue to be below estimates in the coming months as Ohio moves through the COVID-19 crisis. Governor DeWine, Lt. Governor Husted, and Director Murnieks will continue to work with the Ohio General Assembly to identify ways to continue supporting Ohio’s economy through the COVID-19 crisis.
Governor DeWine provided an update on Ohio’s plan for increased COVID-19 testing.
A new partnership announced last week between the state of Ohio, Thermo Fisher, and ROE Dental Scientific will allow for a steady supply of testing reagent and swabs. With Ohio’s new increased testing capacity, Ohio will prioritize testing in the following categories:
“It’s important to remember, that testing is only one response to this virus. It allows us to quickly identify individuals infected with COVID-19, promptly isolate them, and determine who they’ve been in close contact with to minimize the spread,” said Governor DeWine. “Increased testing capacity does not replace infection control and prevention practices such as social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands, and sanitizing high-touch surfaces.”
Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles reopening plan
Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced Tuesday that, although opening dates for individual locations have not yet been finalized, Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) deputy registrars around the state may begin reopening as early as later this month.
Upon reopening, every deputy registrar will offer online the Ohio BMV’s Get In Line, Online program that was launched by Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted as a pilot project last year. A partnership between InnovateOhio and the Ohio BMV has been expanding the project to locations statewide. There are currently 48 deputy registrars that had been offering Get in Line, Online, and all other locations that had not yet offered the service will offer it to customers upon reopening.
“So far, this system has saved Ohioans nearly 9,000 hours of wait time,” said Lt. Governor Husted. “In order to reduce lines and the time each Ohioan has to physically spend in the BMV, we are working with InnovateOhio to expand the program throughout the state by the end of May so that every open BMV will offer this service.”
In preparation for reopening, deputy registrars are also reactivating and hiring staff, making accommodations to their facilities to ensure social distancing, and ensuring that safety measures are in place, such as cough/sneeze shields, at customer-facing workstations.
There was no press conference held on Wednesday.
Current Ohio data
There are 21,576 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 1,225 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. A total of 4,052 people have been hospitalized, including 1,151 admissions to intensive care units. In-depth data can be accessed by visiting coronavirus.ohio.gov.