Morning Headlines: Ohio is First State to Sue Over Delay in Census Data; Ohio’s COVID Alert Map Improves
Here are your morning headlines for Friday, February 26:
- Ohio is first state to sue Census Bureau over delay in data
- Ohio’s COVID map improves, more vaccines on the way
- Sports, entertainment venues can reopen under new limits
- Unemployment fraud remains widespread
- Ohio bill toughening welfare program eligibility criticized
- Smucker’s confirms layoffs amid strong earnings report
- UA, Kent State discuss fall reopening plans
- Lawmakers change key parts of DeWine’s transportation budget
- At divided time, Ohio unites behind statue of John Glenn
- Ohio State fans will pay more for access to buy best tickets
Ohio is first state to sue Census Bureau over delay in data
Ohio is the first state to challenge the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to push back the release of 2020 census figures so more time can be spent on fixing any inaccuracies in the data. The lawsuit claims the delay will undermine the state’s process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts and asks a federal judge to restore the March 31 deadline to turn over the figures. The agency had pushed the date back to Sept. 30.
Ohio’s COVID map improves, more vaccine doses on the way
More than 1.5 million Ohioans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and Gov. Mike DeWine says rates of new cases, deaths, and nursing home transmissions are all on the decline. And, for the first time in weeks, Ohio's color map has changed. Four counties — Holmes, Shelby, Mercer and Williams — dropped from red (Level 3) to orange (Level 2) this week. DeWine says the vaccine shipments will increase to 310,000 doses per week, and he hopes the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine will soon be available.
Sports, entertainment venues can reopen under new limits
Gov. Mike DeWine says sports and entertainment facilities can reopen with limited attendance. DeWine said Thursday that the outdoor venues can reopen with a maximum 30% capacity and indoor venues with 25% capacity. He says those limits could be further eased depending on virus spread this spring and summer. That means in April, Cleveland’s baseball team can have as many as 10,500 fans at Progressive Field. The team says masks and social distancing will be required, among other safety measures. DeWine also said guidance is coming soon for proms, banquets, wedding receptions, fairs, and parades.
Unemployment fraud remains widespread
State officials say fraud continues to plague the unemployment system. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said that more than 100,000 initial jobless claims were filed last week, far above the roughly 20,000 to 40,000 seen in recent weeks. At least 29,000 so far have been flagged for fraud.
Ohio bill toughening welfare program eligibility criticized
Social service advocates are criticizing an Ohio bill that would toughen eligibility requirements for food stamps and Medicaid benefits. Legislation sponsor Sen. Tim Schaffer is a Republican from Lancaster. His bill would require beefed up monitoring of changes in food stamp recipients' income and also require photos on state food stamp cards, called EBT cards. Schaffer's bill also proposes adding some work requirements for recipients of Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care program for poor children and families. Officials with county human services agencies and food banks said Wednesday the legislation would further strain Ohio's safety net system during the pandemic.
Smucker’s confirms layoffs amid strong earnings report
Orville-based J.M. Smucker Company plans layoffs in North America but hasn’t specified how many or where. The decision comes after rapidly evolving consumer behavior due to the pandemic, as well as plans to focus on the growth of their brand portfolio. During Thursday’s earnings call, President and CEO Mark Smucker said the company is making the move despite reporting third quarter financial results that exceeded expectations. Smucker reported net income of $261.5 million on revenue of nearly $2.1 billion for its third quarter ending Jan. 31. That compares to net income of $187.4 million on revenue of $1.9 billion a year ago. Smucker said the company is focusing on its core brands after last year selling Crisco shortening and Natural Balance pet food.
UA, Kent State discuss fall reopening plans
The University of Akron will bring students back to campus this fall, where a majority of classes will take place in-person. Executive Vice President and Provost John Wiencek says the university will accommodate the needs of students and staff with significant health risks, and plans can change based on how the virus is spreading closer to fall. Wiencek says about 20% of classes will remain remote. Students will be able to request housing without a roommate, and the university has waived its residential requirement for freshman. Kent State University President Todd Diacon also said this week that students will most likely be back to in-person classes more than virtual-lessons this fall. Administrators also hope to start vaccinating students and professors in the coming months.
Lawmakers change key parts of DeWine’s transportation budget
An Ohio House committee has stripped a provision from the governor’s transportation budget that targets distracted driving. It included stiffer penalties for drivers caught while using or holding any wireless device while driving. In addition to removing the distracted driving provision, the committee also restored some proposed funding cuts to public transit and eliminated a proposal to raise vehicle fees.
At divided time, Ohio unites behind statue of John Glenn
Both Republicans and Democrats on a state panel voted unanimously on Thursday to place a bronze statue of the late astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn at the Ohio Statehouse for the next year. The period beginning next month will include his 100th birthday this July, as well as the 60th anniversary of his famous flight as the first American to orbit Earth next February. The vote was delayed about a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ohio State fans will pay more for access to buy best tickets
Ohio State fans buying season tickets for some of the best seats at home football games will pay extra beginning in 2022 to help fund athletic scholarships. The tiered ticket plan that trustees approved Thursday requires a per-seat contribution of up to $1,500 in addition to the ticket price for top-tier seats at Ohio Stadium. The athletic director says that's more in line with what other large schools do, and will lower season ticket prices in less desirable sections. He says the change isn’t related to his department’s revenue deficit from the pandemic, which is estimated at $60 million this year.