June 2020 newsletter

Driver’s License Reinstatement Fee Waiver Program Legislation Approved

House Bill 285, sponsored by Representatives David Greenspan and Juanita Brent, creates a permanent driver’s license reinstatement fee waiver and reduction program for low-income Ohioans. Based on the successful 2019 sixth-month Amnesty Initiative, HB285 has been approved by both the House and the Senate. The bill will now head to the Governor’s office for his signature.     

General Assembly Hopes to Address Issues with Unemployment Compensation System

House Bill 614, introduced by Republican Representatives Mark Fraizer and Tracy Richardson, expresses the General Assembly’s intent to study and reform the processes of the unemployment compensation system. In its first three hearings, the House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony from UC applicants, interested parties, and ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall. Through written comments, several legal aid attorneys shared their clients’ experiences with the unemployment compensation system including delays in payments and lack of services for those with limited English proficiency.  

House Bill 672, the Worker Protection Act, introduced by Democratic Representatives David Leland and Lisa Sobecki, would extend unemployment benefits by expanding the just cause exemptions for an individual to quit or refuse suitable work. Just cause exemptions include individuals who are diagnosed with or experience symptoms of COVID-19 or who care for a family member or household member who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, individuals whose employers fail to follow safety guidelines issued by the CDC, individuals who are over the age of 65 or are immunocompromised, and individuals who are the primary caregiver for a child or person in the individual’s home who is unable to return to school or attend a childcare facility. The bill was referred to House Insurance Committee and is awaiting its first hearing.    

Need for Rental Assistance Grows and Advocacy Continues

OPLC continues to call for state and federal investments in emergency rental assistance for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. The need for rental assistance is becoming even more dire as eviction moratoriums are lifted across the state and courts begin to hear eviction cases.  

Both Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman are promoting bills that would extend emergency rental assistance to prevent evictions. The U.S House voted on the newest stimulus package, the HEROES Act, on May 15, 2020. The legislation contains $100 billion in rental assistance and other sources of funding that support housing.  

OPLC testified at a public hearing at the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) regarding its plan to distribute CARES Act dollars. OPLC called for a greater focus on rental assistance and is advocating for DSA to convene a working group of affordable housing stakeholders to design a rental assistance program for the state.  

OPLC will continue to advocate for investments and policies to ensure that low-income families are safe and secure in their homes during the duration of this crisis.                                                  

Student Record Transfer Bill Approved by the Ohio House of Representatives

House Bill 111 would require schools to transfer student records within five days of receiving a request. HB111 was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives on May 13, 2020 with a vote of 80-14. It has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.  

More than half of 1.7 million students enrolled in Ohio school districts are economically disadvantaged. These students are often in unstable housing situations making them more likely to be highly mobile and change schools frequently. Unfortunately, it often takes weeks or months for the school record to catch up to the student in the new school. With the COVID-19 pandemic making Ohio’s housing crisis even more unstable, we may see more families forced to move. If students must change schools, it is critical their records quickly follow. Ohio currently has no requirement for when records must be transferred.