Ohio House speaker announces COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force

Ohio House speaker announces COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a widespread economic shutdown. House Speaker Larry Householder announced Thursday he will be creating a task force to prepare for Ohio to return to work. (Source: FOX19 NOW)

COLUMBUS (FOX19) - Hours after the state’s worst jobless claims numbers since the 1980s recession were released Thursday, House Speaker Larry Householder announced he will create a task force to prepare for Ohio returning to work.

“We don’t know yet when the COVID-19 situation will improve to the point that Ohio businesses can reopen and people can get back to work, but we need to prepare now for the future,” said Householder, R-Glenford.

“Right now, Ohio’s resources must be invested in our healthcare system and keeping Ohioans well,” he said, “but while we are focused on today, we also have an eye focused on tomorrow. How we transition and restart Ohio’s economic engine is critical.”

Claims for unemployment skyrocketed last week from about 7,000 to nearly 188,000, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

That total from just one week is the most the state has seen since the heat of the 1980s recession.

The task force will be bipartisan and include legislators statewide, he added.

With Ohio under a stay-at-home order until at least April 6, the panel will use technology to communicate through the crisis, he said.

It’s not clear when it will be safe for lawmakers to meet in person again in the near future.

They passed coronavirus relief legislation Wednesday that Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign Thursday night or Friday morning.

The package included changes to unemployment compensation to help Ohioans impacted by the pandemic. It also threw out mandatory school state testing this year and extended mail-in voting for the postponed primary until April 28 and the deadline for filing state income taxes until July 15.

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said Wednesday at the state’s coronavirus peak surge there are likely to be 6,000 to 8,000 new cases a day around May 1.

“Our nation and our state was in one of the greatest economic times in our history until this virus hit our shores,” Household tells FOX19 NOW. “I am confident that President Trump will lead our nation back to recovery and we here in Ohio need to seize the opportunity to focus on both our health recovery and our economic recovery.”

Householder also encouraged Gov. Mike DeWine to consider forming a task force of large and small employers, coupled with a few members of the House task force, and the Senate may choose to participate on the governor’s panel as well.

This will allow for the free flow of ideas between legislators and the business community, he said.

“How Ohio rebounds from this epidemic in the near future is as critical as how we deal with the epidemic itself. We must prepare now for the future,” Householder said.

“Ohioans have always been pioneers, leaders, innovators and resilient. We can come out of this challenge in a better position than anyone in the nation if we plan ahead and implement well.”

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, agreed it’s time for all lawmakers to start thinking and planning ahead now so they have a plan to launch day one as soon as the stay-at-home order is lifted and businesses can reopen.

“This is going to devastate our economy if we don’t get people back to work,” Thomas said. “We can’t have our theaters and our restaurants empty and other businesses closed if we expect our state to survive.

“We all need to come together and work this out. It’s going to take some legislative action to get us back on track. It will be a train wreck waiting to happen if we don’t have a plan in place.”

He predicted more emergency supplemental appropriations as well as budget cuts for state departments.

“Everybody is going to have to cut their budget by a certain percentage amount,” he said, adding that it could be as much as 10 to 20 percent.

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