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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Morning Headlines: County Unemployment Rates Soar; YSU Announces Cuts, Furloughs

A photo of banners at Youngstown State University.
Youngstown State University campus

Your morning headlines for Thursday, May 28:

  • County unemployment rates soar;
  • YSU announces cuts, furloughs;
  • I Promise School housing project gets $10M in tax credits;
  • Summa Health Baberton to resume maternity services;
  • Playhouse Square to lay off, furlough staff;
  • Cleveland Fourth of July fireworks postponed;
  • GE sells lighting unit to Savant Systems;
  • Lake Erie algal bloom may be less severe;
  • Father, daughter state legislators report receiving threats;
  • Sports betting legislation gains traction;
  • Ohio could be first to ban surprise medical billing;
  • Ohio Senate reviews legislation to limit health orders;

County unemployment rates soar
County unemployment rates have skyrocketed in Northeast Ohio. Latest jobless figures show unemployment rates in Lorain and Erie counties topped 25% for April, followed by Cuyahoga County at more than 23%. In Summit and Stark counties, the rate was more than 16%. Unemployment rates increased in all 88 Ohio counties.

YSU announces cuts, furloughs
Youngstown State University (YSU) is the latest to announce budget cuts to save $5 million amid the pandemic. All employees in two unions will be required to take 26 days of unpaid leave in the next fiscal year, which equals a 10% pay cut. Nearly 70 employees will be laid off through the end of July, including those who work in parking and dining services. YSU will also cut $2 million from the athletic budget, eliminating 22 coaching and administrative positions. 

I Promise School housing project gets $10M in tax credits
An Akron development corporation is receiving $10 million in tax credits to help construct a 50-unit apartment building for families in the LeBron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School. The East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation will build the $13 million complex on two acres of empty lots within walking distance of the school on the west side. The I Promise School serves about 450 at-risk third through six graders and their families. 

Summa Health Baberton to resume maternity services
Summa Health's Barberton campus will resume maternity services June 8. Services were limited to the Akron campus during last month when COVID-19 cases were surging. Summa said bed space has freed up at Barberton as coronavirus cases start to level off.

Playhouse Square to lay off, furlough staff
Cleveland's Playhouse Square is laying off or furloughing nearly 200 employees due to the coronavirus shutdown. Cleveland.com reports the majority of those impacted are part-time employees who don’t have work to do while theaters are closed. Furloughed staffers could be recalled as soon as late summer. Playhouse Square estimates it will lose nearly $4 million by the end of the year as a result of canceled shows.

Cleveland Fourth of July fireworks postponed
Cleveland's Fourth of July firework show has been moved to September because of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the last cities to announce its holiday plans. Akron canceled its July 4 festival and fireworks show at Lock 3, and it’s looking into planning smaller events throughout the city. Canton and other cities have canceled fireworks displays altogether. 

GE sells lighting unit to Savant Systems
General Electric is selling its lighting unit to smart home company Savant Systems, but will remain headquartered in Cleveland. Cleveland.com reports more than 700 employees will transfer to Savant once the deal closes in a couple months. Terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed. 

Lake Erie algal bloom may be less severe
Scientists say Lake Erie's algal bloom will be less severe than last year, but could be worse than 2018. Early forecasts expect the bloom to be smaller – as high as a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. The bloom in 2019 was rated 7, which was twice as severe as 2018. The severity of the bloom depends on the amount of phosphorus that flows from the Maumee River into the lake between March and July. 

Father, daughter state legislators report receiving threats
Politicians from both political parties are condemning threats of harm made against the Ohio House Minority leader and her father, a state senator. State Rep. Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, told Akron police she received the threatening call over the weekend. Her father is state Sen. Vernon Sykes. Akron police Lt. Michael Miller said it appears the threats were politically motivated. Both Sykes declined to comment Tuesday. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said it's “reprehensible" that someone has threatened lawmakers for doing their jobs. The top Republican and Democrat in the state Senate jointly condemned the threats against the Sykes.

Sports betting legislation gains traction
Legislation to legalize sports betting in Ohio is moving forward. The Ohio House Finance Committee on Wednesday voted to recommend passage of the bill. It would put the Ohio Lottery Commission in charge of regulating the system and would tax betting receipts at 10%, sending net proceeds to education and gambling-addiction programs. Its next step is to head to the full House for approval. The Senate, however, has its own version of the bill that would put the Ohio Casino Control Commission in charge instead, which Gov. Mike DeWine said he favors.  

Ohio could be the first to ban surprise medical billing
Ohio may be the first state to have a law to prevent surprise medical bills. Cleveland.com reports the Ohio Senate will begin hearings on a bill that passed the House last week. It would prevent out-of-network or emergency providers from sending unexpectedly high bills for services. The legislation is years in the making and marks the first time lawmakers in any state have been able to bring insurance companies, hospitals and other care providers to the table to work out a deal. Under the bill, insurers can bill patients the average rate for services, or the rate paid by Medicare. The proposed law allows the state to go after insurance companies that repeatedly engage in “surprise” billing.

Ohio Senate reviews legislation to limit health orders
An Ohio Senate committee is reviewing a bill that would limit the power of Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to issue extended health orders. The bill, co-sponsored by Hudson Republican Kristina Roegner would limit any health order to no more than 14 days. The bill would also allow in-person high school graduation ceremonies this year. Gov. Mike DeWine said that he planned veto a similar measure that House lawmakers inserted into a previous bill before it was unanimously rejected by the Senate.