This Week in Public Policy: March 23 - 27, 2020

This Week in Public Policy, written by DD Council staff person Paul Jarvis, provides a summary of policy and legislation in Ohio and at the federal level that is of interest to people with disabilities.

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In Ohio

On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, the Ohio House and Senate amended and passed as an emergency measure House Bill 197 (Tax Provisions). The bill makes a number of immediate changes in response to the Coronavirus epidemic. It moves the state income tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020 to match the federal government’s delay, sets as April 28th the deadline to submit an absentee ballot for the primary election. At the time of this writing, the Ohio Legislature’s website was not working, so I am unable to link directly to the bill. There are multiple provisions in the bill that allow accommodations for individuals with disabilities related to voting.

On Thursday, March 26, 2020, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Beth Acton announced a new COVID-19 Dashboard. The new dashboard will provide additional information related to confirmed infections, counties, deaths, ICU and hospitalizations, etc. The Dashboard can be found on the state’s Coronavirus webpage.

In Washington

On Friday, March 27, 2020, the US House of Representatives agreed to the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S.3548).  Among several important initiatives included in the stimulus bill, the bill proposes to send all “eligible” adults $1,200, and $500 for each dependent child. Eligible adults are individuals who are legal residents and cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes.

DD Council staff’s reading of the rebate check provision ($1,200 check) indicates that individuals with developmental disabilities who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) would NOT be eligible for the stimulus check UNLESS they have qualifying income of $2,500 or a net income tax liability (this means that they filed taxes and their tax return was less than the federal taxes withheld for the year). However, individuals who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) WOULD be eligible. Any individual who had at least $2,500 in wage income in 2018 would be eligible for the stimulus check.

Additionally, according to Ohio Administrative Code Section 5160:1-3-03.2 (D)(2)(e), “Assistance received under the Disaster Relief and Energy Assistance Act (as in effect on February 1, 2016) and assistance provided under any federal statute because of a presidentially-declared disaster;” meaning a stimulus check should not impact Medicaid eligibility. US Senator Rob Portman, during Governor DeWine’s Friday press conference, indicated that rebate checks would be direct-deposited in the same manner that income tax returns or social security checks would be direct deposited. 

NEXT Week in Public Policy: March 30 - April 3, 2020

In Ohio

The Ohio Legislature is NOT scheduled to be in session.

In Washington

The US House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. There has been some discussion about the possibility of yet another COVID-19 federal package. No word yet on what that may include.

Facts That May Only Interest Me: The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Soon the article made its way onto the Internet, and then it rapidly spread around the world, forwarded by e-mail. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The article was an April Fool joke about banning the teaching of evolution the Alabama legislature was considering.