Senate Also Sends Bill with Important Liability Protections for Small Businesses and Schools to Governor

COLUMBUS—Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced today the Ohio Senate unanimously passed legislation providing an additional $650 million of federal CARES Act funding to local communities across Ohio for COVID-19 pandemic-related expenses.

The funding authorized in Senate Bill 357 will be made available to counties, municipalities and townships for necessary expenses associated with the current public health emergency and will be distributed on a per capita basis. The counties represented by President Obhof in Senate District 22 (Ashland, Holmes, Medina and Richland) will receive a combined $28.7 million in relief funding through this bill.

“This legislation ensures that local communities across Ohio will have access to critical funds needed to combat the pandemic and recover from its effects," said Obhof, who cosponsored the bill. "I encourage the Ohio House of Representatives to act quickly on this bill so these funds can make it to the front lines as soon as possible."

Senate Bill 357 will be the third round of coronavirus relief funding for counties, municipalities and townships, following the state Controlling Board’s authorization last week of $175 million and the General Assembly’s approval in June of $350 million through House Bill 481.

This funding excludes Ohio’s six jurisdictions with populations over 500,000 because they already qualify for direct payments from the CARES Act. These jurisdictions are the city of Columbus, as well as Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery and Summit county governments. Municipalities and townships within these counties, however, are still eligible for the funding appropriated in this legislation.

The bill now goes to the Ohio House of Representatives for consideration. The legislation includes an emergency clause, making the bill effective immediately upon being signed by the governor.

The Senate also voted today in favor of the conference committee report on House Bill 606, sending the bill to the Governor for his consideration. House Bill 606 provides liability protections to businesses, schools and certain healthcare providers during declared disasters or emergencies. The legislation aims to protect against frivolous lawsuits that allege exposure to COVID-19 on the entity's premises, unless it is found that the business owner, school or provider acted with reckless or intentional misconduct to spread the virus.

"Ohio's small businesses and schools are working hard to reopen, bring back employees, and safely welcome their customers and students," said Obhof. "This legislation helps provide the certainty they need to reopen as we work together on Ohio's recovery."

The protections in House Bill 606 are temporary and would continue through September 30, 2021.