Republican Ohio House leaders created a bipartisan task force to suggest ways to jump start the economy after the coronavirus shutdowns.
Five hundred business owners have asked to speak to the panel, which has already heard some stories and ideas. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.
At least 50 businesses have testified before the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force, which is meeting via videoconference. Many have talked of potential devastation, such as Dale Hipsley, who runs two cafes with 60 employees in Wyoming and Mason near Cincinnati.
"Our house is on fire, we're about to lose everything and the only thing that will extinguish the flames is revenue. Let's get to the work of reopening the economy now."
The Ohio Restaurant Association says half the state’s eateries have closed and 3 percent are already saying they won’t reopen. And for those that do, a 40 percent drop in revenue is expected.
Some have shared stories of what they feel is unfair treatment. For instance, jewelers and furniture store owners are upset that they’re shut down, while big box retailers who sell groceries are also allowed to sell the things they would.
And others have put forward ideas for longer-term help – for instance, tax credits for purchases of masks and gloves for employees, property tax breaks for closed businesses, and this from Dante Sabatucci, who owns a sports academy in North Canton.
“An idea would be to ask businesses who have, I hate to use the word ‘thrived’ during this time to create a fund that they can donate to help a lot of smaller businesses to get back on our feet.”
And some businesses have revealed their doubts about information. Tony George has around a dozen restaurants in Cleveland, but he had something to say about the data the state has been sharing about coronavirus.
“Look at all the modeling. They continually reset the numbers. The modeling hasn’t been right. I don’t trust the numbers.”
Epidemiologists and public health and infectious disease experts say that models aren’t crystal balls but are forecasts, that trends are more important than numbers, and that there are lots of unknowns about this virus.
And there were what many would consider to be conspiracy theories from Bill Bader, owner of a 30,000 seat speedway in Norwalk. Bader said he believes the pandemic is real, but questioned the COVID-19 death toll. He says he’ll use appropriate safety when he reopens the speedway – which he said he’ll do without waiting for permission from Republican Goveror Mike DeWine, who ordered the shutdown.