Legislation Would Aid Those Affected by COVID-19

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ohio elected officials are announcing initiatives to aid those affected.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, each introduced companion versions of the Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal Family Care Act, which would ensure paid sick days for workers in the case of public health emergencies like coronavirus.

While some health officials are recommending people stay home if they are sick, doing so could mean lost hourly wages and, potentially, a lost job, according to a release from Ryan. Such occupations include those in the food industry, trucking and services.

“In the middle of a public health crisis it is not the time for Americans to be worried about losing a paycheck or a job,” Ryan said. “The first step to combating coronavirus is decreasing the spread of the virus in public places. To do that, some Americans are going to need to stay home. We have to ensure everyone has the ability to do that to keep themselves, their families, and our communities safe.”

The legislation builds on the existing Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers at employers with 15 or more employees to gradually earn up to seven days of paid sick leave and allow employees at smaller employers to gradually earn up to seven days of only unpaid sick time.

Brown’s version of the bill also would require all employers to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency. It would also ensure paid sick leave covers days when a child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency, when an employer is closed due to a public health emergency, or if an individual or family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency, according to a release.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked the vote from moving forward.

“Congress can’t wait. People are choosing between going to work sick, and missing a paycheck right now,” Brown said during a conference call earlier Wednesday. “We need this bill to prevent the spread of coronavirus and stop this crisis getting worse. It’s about the Dignity of Work issue, and it’s about public safety.”

Based on guidelines from the CDC and Gov. Mike DeWine regarding postponing large, indoor gatherings, Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman have canceled upcoming service academy seminars throughout the state, including the March 17 meeting at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Canfield, according to Portman’s website.

The senators will provide updates when the seminars will be rescheduled. Eligible students who are interested in participating can send completed application packets to Portman’s Columbus office, 37 W. Broad St., Room 300, Columbus, Ohio, 43215 no later than Sept. 18.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, announced Wednesday she will introduce legislation creating a universal vote-by-mail (UVBM) system in Ohio.

“The governor has declared a state of emergency and the Secretary of State is moving 125 polling locations one week from Election Day due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus,” Lepore-Hagan said. “This situation underscores the need for Ohio to adopt a secure system of voting that will enable residents to cast ballots from home. UVBM also alleviates long lines, confusion over voter ID requirements and public health or other emergencies that make it difficult for people to go to the polls.”

The legislation would allow voters to cast their ballot in a number of ways including by mail, drop off at a county board of election, voter service and polling center or secure mail drop boxes located in each of the 88 counties, according to a statement.

Voters may also cast ballots in person at the office of their county board of election or polling center from the start of the early voting period through election day. Each paper ballot will carry a unique barcode and will require signature authentication.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.