<<Ohio’s New Laws Responding to Covid-19 Disease/Wuhan Flu
April 3, 2020
J. Eric Holloway
Eric Holloway Law Group, LLC
Earlier, I reported on Ohio’s Order to stay home. (See this link for the full Order, as viewed March 25, 2020) (aka Executive Order 2020-01D).) Under that Order generally, all persons in Ohio must stay at home unless either a “personal” or “business” exemption applies.
Before that Stay Home Order, Governor DeWine issued Executive Order, 2020-01D, as viewed March 29, 2020. In it, Governor DeWine declared a state of emergency in Ohio. He started to implement steps to address the Wuhan flu and its effect in Ohio.
On March 27, 2020, Ohio’s Legislature passed and Governor Mike DeWine signed into law legislative provisions in response to the Wuhan flu (Covid-19 disease). (Amended Substitute House Bill Number 197, (as viewed March 29, 2020) (“The Act” or “HB 197”).) It creates many provisions to help Ohioans through the current Wuhan flu pandemic.
The Act provides economic relief. It provides community health and safety. It provides legal relief. I explain more below. Generally, these changes last only so long as Ohio is under the Stay Home Order. I first discuss the economic need for some of the provisions in the Act. I then discuss some of the Act’s provisions below.
Unemployment claims are spiking. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) tracks unemployment claims nationally. Last week, it reported an increase of 3,000,000 jobless claims over the prior reporting period. DOL stated, “In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,283,000, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised level.” (https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf, page 1, as viewed March 29, 2020.) A week later, that figure grew to over 6,600,000 new claims.(https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf, page 1, as viewed April 2, 2020.)
So, in two weeks, our country is seeing over 9,900,000 people filing new jobless claims. I expect even more new claims. Afterall, 77% of our economy’s output comes from the service sector. (See Statista article, as viewed April 3, 2020.)
In the service sector, we see: “warehousing and transportation services; information services; … investment services; professional services; waste management; health care and social assistance; and arts, entertainment, and recreation.” (See Investopedia article, as viewed April 3, 2020.) Instead of producing food (agriculture sector), or making goods and products (manufacturing), the service sector involves people helping people.
For now, we are in a virtual lock down across our country. We are not seeing people helping people. Thus, we are seeing a decline in the need for employees, hence the current rise in unemployment.
Some might wonder how high the unemployment rate could go. As of July 2029, nearly 108 million workers worked in the service sector. (See Pew Research Center, “10 Facts about American Workers,” as viewed April 3, 2020.) That is 71% of all employees on a payroll who are not farmers. (Id.)
In 2019, our country had over 157 million total workers (non-frarming). (Id.) Again, over 108 million people work in the service sector today. (See Id.) Presume for a moment that only half of the people working in the service sector lose their jobs. That would be about 54 million people unemployed alone.
Presume next, incorrectly, that we see no job losses in both the agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The national unemployment rate could approach well over 30% (54 million service sector workers/157 million workers in the U.S. = 34.4%).
Our country’s highest unemployment rate was 24.9%. That happened during the Great Depression in 1933. (See Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor Force, Employment, and Unemployment, 1929-39: Estimating Methods,” as viewed April 3, 2020.) The picture looks grim.
Others created the grim picture. Ohio's leaders seek a brighter future. In HB 197, the State has made at least two changes to its unemployment benefits. First, it waives the one-week waiting period unemployment beneficiaries have to wait to start receiving unemployment benefits. (HB 197, page 337, Section 19(B)(1)(“The requirement that an individual serve a waiting period under division (B) of section 4141.29 of the Revised Code before receiving benefits does not apply to a benefit year that begins after the effective date of this section.”) This only applies to those who apply for such benefits after the effective date of HB 197, which appears to be March 27, 2020. (Id.)
Second, HB 197 permits the Director of Jobs and Family Services, (“JFS”) the agency which oversees unemployment benefits in Ohio, to “waive the requirement that an individual be actively seeking suitable work….” (HB 197, page 337, Section 19(B)(2).) When on unemployment benefits, a recipient typically must search for employment each week. Otherwise, the recipient would not be eligible for benefits in the week he or she did not seek employment. Some call this the job search requirement. Here, the Director of JFS may waive this requirement.
HB 197 provides another form of relief. It specifically states: “an individual shall not be disqualified from being paid benefits if the individual is unemployed or is unable to return to work because of an order, including an isolation or quarantine order….” (HB 197, page 337, Section 19(B)(3).) To apply, one of the following must issue the order that prevents someone from working: the worker’s employer; the Governor; a board of health; a health commissioner; or the State’s Director of Health. (Id.) So, a person who must stay at home per a listed order, also may receive unemployment benefits.
Community Health and Safety
Under the umbrella of community safety, HB 197 provides some relief. Imagine someone has lost his job. The water bill is way past overdue. Then, the water utility shuts off the water. If we are told anything in this pandemic, we are to wash our hands – multiple times a day. (See from the Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/hand/handwashing.html as viewed March 29, 2020.) Ohio has taken a step to preserve a person or family’s ability to wash with water even if the water company typically would turn off the water service.
Under HB 197, the State’s Director of Environmental Protection (EPA) may order the water back on. That is true even if the shut off happened due to nonpayment of fees and charges. (HB 197, page 325, Section 8(A)(1).) The Director may order all reconnection fees waived, too. (Id. at (A)(2).) The Director may also order that water companies may not shut off anyone’s water. (Id. at (A)(3).) Again, as with all of these terms, these protections only last during the existence Governor DeWine’s Executive Order 2020-01D.
More than ever, we need medical professionals. To that end, HB 197 allows the Board of Nursing to grant applicants a temporary license to practice as a registered nurse. If the applicant seeks a license as licensed practical nurse, the Board of Nursing may issue a temporary license to such applicants as well. (HB 197, page 341, Section 30(A)(1).)
HB 197 helps with an issue few might consider. Some people might need to file a lawsuit. Some might not be able to hire a lawyer while in the throes of this pandemic. HB 197 extends the deadline to file certain criminal and civil actions. The extension applies to any civil or criminal claim that could have been filed on or after March 9, 2020, the date of Governor DeWine’s Executive Order 2020-01D. The extension lasts until the state of emergency is withdrawn or by July 30, 2020, which occurs first. (HB 197, page 338, Section 22(A)(1-10); (B); (C).)
I have no thoughts that HB 197 cures everyone’s current ills or troubles. I take some comfort in it though. We are in confused and unnerving times. Together, we will not only endure these times, but we will overcome them. With HB 197 at our backs, it is safe to say this. We have the good fortune to live in this State where our executive and legislative leaders are thinking about us, about our needs both today and tomorrow. Such leadership allows each one of us more time think about our family, friends and fellow citizens.
I hope this helps. More so, I hope you remain well.
Ohio’s Stay at Home Order: Covid-19 Disease/Wuhan Flu and You
March 25, 2020
J. Eric Holloway
Eric Holloway Law Group, LLC
What does it mean? Governor Mike DeWine instructed Director Amy Acton, M.D., Ohio Department of Health to issue a stay at home order. (See this link for the full Order as viewed March 25, 2020.) Generally, all persons in Ohio must stay at home unless either a “personal” or “business” exemption applies.
In this article, I discuss the “personal” and “business” exemptions about the stay at home Order (Order). I also discuss tips on how to interact with law enforcement who might stop you stopped during an outing. However, I do not try to go over every point or nuance. The Order is 12 pages. It has another 12 pages of supporting text from a Memorandum from the United States Department of Homeland Security. That Memorandum lists categories of critical infrastructure workers. This article also does not provide legal advice to any reader.
In sum though, this Order directs all person to remain at home or residence, going out only if an exemption applies under the Order. (Order, p. 1, ¶ 1.) It also directs that all business operations and activities in the State shall cease. (Order, p. 1, ¶ 2.) Exceptions apply, though.
Some thoughts on personal activities/exemptions in the Order
First, this Order does not require everyone to remain inside always. For example, it allows “outdoor activity.” (Order, p. 2, ¶ 5.c.) The Order allows, “walking, hiking, running, or biking” and other activities, “without limitation,” as to the type of activities. Two exceptions apply. (Order, p. 2, ¶ 5.c.) One, the Order requires all persons when out of their homes to, “maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person, with the exception of family or household members[.]” (Order, p. 1, ¶ 1.)
The Order defines social distance with specificity. (Order, p. 8, ¶ 15.) Under the Order, social distancing requires as follows:
Two, as an exception about outdoor activities, a limit on groups applies. Namely, no one may gather in groups of ten or more. (Order, p. 1, ¶ 3 (“Prohibited activities”).
The Order allows many other important activities. That is, any of us may engage in what the Order calls “Essential Activities.” (Order, p. 2, ¶ 5.) The Order lists five activities that anyone may pursue outside of their homes or residence. They include:
Some thoughts on permitted business activities/exemptions in the Order
The Order allows certain workers and businesses to continue to function. If you work in a hospital, medical clinic, dentist’s office, pharmacy (and more), you can go to work. (Order, Page 3, ¶ 7.) If you work for any provider funded by the Ohio Department of Aging, Department of Developmental Disabilities, day care center, and more, you can go to work. (Order, Page 3, ¶ 8.)
If you work for an “Essential Infrastructure,” then you can go to work. For example, if you work in food production or distribution, you can go to work. (Order, Page 4, ¶ 9.) If you work in construction, you can go to work. (Order, Page 4, ¶ 9.) If you work in water, sewer, gas, electrical utilities, you can go to work. (Order, Page 4, ¶ 9.) There’s more.
The Order specifically lists types of businesses and operations that are exempt from the Order. It exempts:
Some thoughts for being outside the home, whether under a personal or a business exemption
In a sense, the entirety of the Ohio Revised Code, our state’s laws, has been reduced for now to 12 pages. At least for now, we can find Ohio’s most important laws in this Stay at Home Order. So, you out of your home or residence. A police officer pulls you over. Now what?
The Order has no terms about how to prove you are out of your home or residence under a proper exception. (Order, passim.) The government is our servant, and sometimes our servant needs a little help from us. Let’s consider some ideas below.
I offer no guarantee of success for the forgoing tips. However, they are derived in large part from a small area of my practice – OVI defense. You know what happens if you drink and drive, right? You lose your license.
However, you can get limited driving privileges. You can drive to work, for example, if the Court allows it. One way to have such privileges is to have a piece of paper signed by the Judge. That piece of paper states when and where you may drive. Then, you have to a logbook. Into it, you enter the date, time and location you are going. When you arrive, you enter your arrival time. Then, when you leave, you repeat the process. I do not suggest anything so regimented.
However, if you are going to the grocery store, maybe have a printed/written list of your grocery items with you. Consider printing out your route from your house to your grocery stores(s).
If you are picking up a family member or friend who cannot drive to take him or her grocery shopping, have an email from your friend. State in it when you will pick them up. State the friend’s address. State the intended destination(s). Then, print out the email, especially if your friend confirms the itinerary.
Why do this? Police officers are encountering this new set of laws, too, with this Stay at Home Order. They are private citizens, too, in addition to their public service roles. They are worried about the spread of the Wuhan flu (Covid-19 disease). They are worried about their families and friends just like you. They can handle it, but a little help from you can go a long way to help our police officers.
It might help your interaction with the police on the side of the road to consider as follows if you are pulled over:
Is this convenient? No. Could it help? It might. Why have such papers? These print outs are to give to the officer who pulls you over. The papers back up what you are saying. You are trying to convince the officer to let you go on your way. You are trying to avoid hiring a lawyer to explain to a Judge where it is you were going.
There could be better ideas. I look forward to finding them. Still, we are all in a period of transition. Together, we can get through this. I have no doubts. I hope this helps. Be well.