Ohio lawmakers should make the most of the American Rescue Plan
Posted April 08, 2021 in Press Releases
Policy Matters Ohio released today a set of recommendations for how state lawmakers should spend one part of the billions of federal dollars coming to Ohio thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA): The funds that come straight to the state for lawmakers to use to retore and rebuild after the pandemic and recession.
The ARPA will send an estimated $31 billion in federal funds to Ohio via stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment insurance, and money for public transit, schools, hospitals, health care centers, child care and other critical programs. Ohio’s state government will receive $5.6 billion in flexible funds and local governments will get $5.4 billion, both to be spent by the end of 2024.
State lawmakers’ first priority for ARPA funds must be to control the virus and make sure everyone who was harmed by the recession can make ends meet, said Policy Matters Senior Project Direct Wendy Patton. Once those needs are addressed, lawmakers must turn to the longstanding problem of eroded, neglected public services.
“The American Rescue Plan embraces the idea that government works best when it works for all the people, not just the wealthy few,” Patton said. “By approaching recovery from the ground up instead the top down, the ARPA gives us a chance to control the virus and get back on our feet.”
Over the past 15 years, state lawmakers have eliminated major business taxes and passed income tax cuts that in most cases benefitted the state’s wealthiest — mostly white — residents. Today, Ohio collects $7 billion less a year for public services than we would under the tax laws of 2005. This left the state unprepared for the pandemic recession and with struggling schools, unaffordable college, strapped local governments and insufficient social services. On top of that, Ohio’s lawmakers give out $9 billion a year in tax breaks, many for special interests, which grow every year without sufficient scrutiny or evaluation.
Policy Matters recommendations for Ohio’s $5.6 billion in ARPA funds include:
- Rebuilding Ohio’s public health system and addressing COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and brown people.
- Helping people get back on their feet with programs like rental assistance, enhanced funding for food pantries and funding to help with one-time emergencies.
- Strengthening public education, boosting financial aid for college students, rebuilding antiquated infrastructure like old lead-tainted water service lines and helping public transit agencies restore their obsolete fleets.
- Making sure frontline essential workers are paid fairly and enforcing wage and hour laws so that all workers are paid for all hours worked.
Earlier in the week, Policy Matters and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative unveiled the People’s Budget, a bold plan that would use the state budget to create opportunity and prosperity for all Ohioans, no matter where they live or what they look like. Patton said the People’s Budget would build on ARPA’s momentum.
“As bold as it is, the rescue plan won’t make up for the all the resources certain politicians drained from Ohio’s communities to hand out tax cuts and tax breaks to the wealthy few and corporations,” Patton said. “Ohio lawmakers can use ARPA funds for a much needed reset. Then they can continue on the right course by passing recommendations in the People’s Budget.”