DeWine Announces $2.5M in Grants for Earning Job Credentials

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted unveiled workforce training and retention initiatives and new guidance and funding for education during Thursday’s coronavirus briefing.

Husted announced the launch of the Individual Micro-credential Assistance Program, or IMAP, which will provide $2.5 million in grants to help unemployed Ohioans earn credentials for in-demand, technology-focused jobs.

The OhioMeansJobs website has 120,000 available jobs, half of which pay more than $50,000 per year, but technology skills “play an important part in landing those jobs,” Husted said.

Training providers — including colleges, universities, technical centers or private-sector training businesses — can apply for reimbursement of up to $3,000 per credential issued up to $250,000 per provider, he said. The deadline for providers to apply for the program is July 24, after which the program will be opened for individuals to apply.

Colleges and universities drive not only the economies of the communities where they are located as major employers, but they also train Ohio’s future workforce, DeWine said.

The Responsible RestartOhio guidance for institutions of higher education includes minimum operating standards for all campuses, as well as best practices. The guidance was developed by the Ohio Department of Higher Education in consultation with Ohio colleges and universities, the Ohio Department of Health and health experts.

Each campus must identify how they can best implement the guidance and develop policies and procedures tailored to their particular campus, DeWine said. Testing will be “an integral part” of those strategies, he said.

The governor also acknowledged that meeting standards for reopening would present a “significant” financial burden for those institutions and Ohio’s K-12 schools, for which reopening guidance was issued last week.

To help alleviate that burden, he said he is requesting that the Ohio Controlling Board, which meets Monday, allocate $200 million for higher education institutions and $100 million for K-12 schools to be used to assist them with preparing for reopening. The funds would be in addition to the $440 million for K-12 schools and $190 for colleges and universities directly from the Cares Act, DeWine said. He acknowledged that the funding might not cover all the additional expenses so the state is gong to explore ways to provide additional money.

The funds, which would come from Ohio’s allocation of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – or Cares – Act, is intended to be flexible, DeWine said. A community college might use the funds for testing, a school district might use it to hire a nurse or a university might use it to purchase personal protective equipment.

“We wanted to get this money out and let schools be able to plan,” he said. “If you educate students, we want to provide support.”

Cares Act funds also will support the state’s SharedWork program, which helps employers retain employees whose hours need to be temporarily reduced. Under the program, employers agree to reduce an employee’s hours by a uniform percentage between 10% and 50% for up to 52 weeks. The affected employee is then eligible to receive SharedWork compensation, a prorated unemployment benefit.

“We know when you have an economic slowdown, you may not have enough work for all of your employees but you want to keep them on the job. You want to retain their talent for when the economy pick back up and you can use them full time,” Husted said.

Since March 15, 909 employers have used the program, benefiting 46,352 employees, he said.

Reviewing the numbers, DeWine announced that there are 61,331 cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, including 1,150 recorded in the last 24 hours. There have been 3,006 deaths have been reported, including 15 in the last day.

Also, the percentage of those testing positive is rising. Where 4% to 6% of those being tested were showing positive for the virus, 6.4% tested positive Tuesday, the highest rate since May 25, he said.

A total of 12 of Ohio’s 88 counties are now at the Red, or Level 3, in the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, up from seven. At 6 p.m. Wednesday, people in Red counties were mandated to wear face coverings when out in public.

Among the counties at Red level is Trumbull County, which as among the original group announced a week ago. Mahoning County remains at Level 2, or Orange, and Columbiana County remains at Level 1, or Yellow. The original group of Red counties included Trumbull, which remains among the 12 at that level. Three Red counties – Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Butler – are at risk of moving to Level 4, or Purple, indicating severe exposure and spread.

The goal of the measures is to have a fall in which kids are back in school, sports can be played and other normal activities can resume, DeWine said.

“These are all things that we want to do and what we do in the next 30 days is going to determine how that works out,” he said.

During the last two weeks, Trumbull County had a total of 68 cases per 100,000 residents, and the average number of new cases per day has doubled from eight on June 16 to 17 on June 27, DeWine said. From June 16 to June 27, emergency department visits because of COVID-19 increased from an average of three per day to eight per day, and COVID-19 admissions rose from one per day on average June 16 to four on July 1.

DeWine also announced an additional $15 million grant to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio to support homelessness prevention efforts. The homeless are at particular risk of coronavirus, particularly those in congregate living settings such as homeless shelters.

During a question-and-answer session at the end of the briefing, DeWine and Husted each responded to state Rep. Nino Vitale, R-58 Urbana, urging his constituents not to get tested for coronavirus. DeWine said he found “shocking” the notion that someone would advise people who have symptoms not to get tested.

“If you have indications that you might have COVID-19, the right thing to do is to be tested,” and if positive try – or contact the health department to help — to alert people who might have been infected by exposure, DeWine said.

“Testing by itself doesn’t solve the problem but if we test then we can isolate the virus,” he added.

“Why would we want to live in the dark? Why would we not want people to have information about their health status?” Husted asked.

In a news release Thursday afternoon, Eastern Gateway Community College Interim President and Chief Financial Officer Michael Geoghegan expressed his appreciation for the support for colleges and universities. Earlier this year, Eastern Gateway received nearly $1 million in direct funding from the Cares Act, a portion of which it leveraged to launch the EGCC Summer Guarantee allowing tens of thousands of residents of Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties to attend college for free.

The community college does not have an estimate of how much of the newly announced funds it will receive, and college leadership has yet to determine how to use any additional money it gets.

“We are very appreciative of Governor DeWine’s support for Ohio’s community college, and his recognition of the difficulties experienced by our schools and our students as we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Geoghegan said.

“We already have a thoughtful plan to ensure the safety and health of our students, staff and faculty, while also continuing to deliver the academic programming our students need to succeed,” he continued. “We will carefully consider how to best use these new funds to make the biggest impact on the lives of those we serve.”

Pictured: This Dec. 13, 2019, file photo shows Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaking about his plans for the coming year during an interview at the Governor’s Residence in Columbus, Ohio. The Treasury Department on Monday, July 6, 2020, released the names of more than 650,000 companies that received funds from the government’s small business lending program, a massive effort intended to support the economy as states shut down in April to contain the viral outbreak. A company owned by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is among those that have received loans. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

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