Local nonprofits gathered on a Zoom call with local elected GOP members last week to discuss the financial impacts of COVID-19 on nonprofit businesses and the grants available to help them.

State Sen. John Eklund, R-Munson, was joined by U.S. Rep. David Joyce, R-Bainbridge, and Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino, who is currently running for Sen. Eklund’s position, to answer questions from nonprofit administrators in Geauga, Lake and other surrounding counties.

Sen. Eklund took a moment to talk about the issue of racial equality as people protest across the country after the death of George Floyd, 46, while in police custody in Minnesota.

“On the entire issue of systemic disparities and what I’ll call either latent or blatant racism or bias of any kind, we haven’t done enough to address those issues,” Sen. Eklund said. “And part of the reason is because those who are interested in it, and everyone should be, has their own internal biases about what the issues are and how to address them.”

A pending bill in the state senate would require Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to develop and implement a curriculum for a race relations course at the police academy in Ohio, Sen. Eklund said. High schools are looking to add a course with the same goal to their curriculum.

“There’s no single piece of legislation that’s going to cure this,” Rep. Joyce said. “This affects us all.”

The June 18 event was the latest in Lakeland Community College’s Nonprofit and Public Service Center’s LogOn&Learn Webinar Series, which the department has been putting on to offer tips to local businesses and organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a difficult time in Columbus and in the State of Ohio,” Sen. Eklund said. “Over the last two months, we’ve lost something like 900,000 jobs. People are put out of work. This past week, we had our unemployment compensation fund run out of money.” When a similar situation occurred in 2008 because of the Great Recession, he said the state had to increase unemployment compensation premiums to recoup.

Mr. Cirino said the already-difficult task of finding funding for nonprofits has become much more difficult during the health crisis.

Mark Ruth, the executive director of Western Reserve Counseling Service, Inc. in Painesville, asked about funding for groups like Alcoholics Anonymous that have not been able to operate as usual during the pandemic. The opioid epidemic in Ohio further complicates the situation, he said.

“Many nonprofit organizations in my district or around the state have been beneficiaries over time of state capital budget funds,” Sen. Eklund responded. “Every year, states issue bonds and apply proceeds of those bonds and send them out to communities, including behavioral health and other organizations for capital expenditures.”

Mr. Cirino suggested that mental health organizations may be eligible for some money through the Small Business Administrations’ Paycheck Protection Program but added that the state has seen an uptake in issues like drug addictions and suicides during the pandemic.

Questions were asked about funding for schools to reopen. Sen. Eklund said school funding was one of the first areas to see reductions from the state during the pandemic with local districts getting hit harder.

“We did an amendment to a bill just recently that made some adjustments to that formula so that no school district would lose more than 6 percent of their funding as a result of these cuts,” Sen. Eklund said. “Based on my conversations with superintendents over in [my] senate district, they feel that with that adjustment they’ll be OK.”

The Ohio Department of Education is giving each school district the ability to choose how they reopen because each community is different, which will make it more difficult to distribute funding. The state shut down school buildings in March to stop the spread of the coronavirus with children finishing the year through online classes. Sen. Eklund said he would like to see schools move towards reopening in a normal manner.

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