COLUMBUS (AP) — People struggling to pay rent, along with small businesses and nonprofits hurt by the pandemic and the weak economy, could have details by next week on an aid package to help them, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.
DeWine acknowledged that people and businesses may need more help than the state can provide from its share of federal aid dollars. The length of the economic downturn created by efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus is also unclear, the governor said.
He called it a “mental health issue” for those with months of unpaid rent agonizing over how they’ll make payments.
“We’re battling back, we’re doing things, but we still have a lot of people hurting and we need to give them some relief,” DeWine said.
Ohio must balance the use of the federal pandemic aid dollars for such assistance while reserving money for testing, and some of the state’s approach depends on whether Congress will pass another aid package, the governor said.
But even as he was making those comments, President Donald Trump announced he was ending talks with congressional Democrats over another stimulus package and that no additional aid would be negotiated until after the election.
Ohio brought in $8.7 million more than expected last month, or just 0.5% above what it anticipated, with sales tax from car purchases making up for drops in other tax revenue. The state’s commercial activities tax on businesses was above what was anticipated but remains down for the business year beginning July 1, the state Office of Budget and Management reported Tuesday.
Meanwhile, unemployment claims in Ohio have ticked upward in recent days after weeks of declines from their record highs at the start of the pandemic. First-time claims rose for the second time in two weeks, the state said on Oct. 1, jumping to 17,944 for the week ending Sept. 26, a 3% increase from the previous week.
Also Tuesday, DeWine announced both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns can boost the number of spectators to 12,000 per game for their remaining home games, up from 6,000.
The governor also said he is looking into anecdotal reports from superintendents concerned that most students quarantined after contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus don’t ever get sick.
The governor offered continued prayers for Trump’s own recovery from the coronavirus, but also offered an uncharacteristic criticism of the president.
“I wish the president would wear the mask more,” DeWine said. “I wish he would wear it all the time in public.”
After returning to the White House on Monday night from Walter Reed hospital, the president removed his mask and gave a double thumbs-up from the South Portico terrace, where aides had arranged American flags for the sunset occasion. He entered the White House, where aides were visible milling about the Blue Room, without wearing a face covering.
Ohio has seen more than 160,000 confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus, including 1,335 new cases reported by the Health Department Tuesday, well above the 21-day average of 1,039. The Health Department reported 4,947 deaths from confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19.