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Legislators unveil virus relief bills

State legislators who represent the Mahoning Valley are sponsoring separate bills to increase COVID-19 relief funds: one for small businesses, another for residents struggling to pay rent and utilities during the pandemic and a third for bars, restaurants and hotels.

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, who represents Mahoning and Columbiana counties, introduced a bill Tuesday to provide an additional $300 million in state and federal funding to small businesses for pandemic-related expenses. He is co-sponsoring the proposal with state Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring small businesses have the resources necessary for their swift recovery during these unprecedented times,” Rulli said.

State Rep. Michael Loychik, R-Bazetta, introduced a companion bill in the Ohio House.

Half of the funding would be for small businesses that already have been approved for aid, but haven’t received it because of a lack of funding. Also, $112.2 million would go to reimburse child-care providers for pandemic-related expenses.

The rest would go to indoor entertainment businesses, businesses that opened after Jan. 1, 2020, county and independent fairs and the state’s two veterans’ homes.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Knox, introduced a bill with Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, to provide $465 million more in federal funds to help Ohioans having problems paying their rent and utilities.

“While I am hopeful the worst of the pandemic is behind us, the reality is many Ohioans are still struggling,” said O’Brien, who represents all of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and a portion of Geauga County.

“We owe it it our constituents to ensure these dollars are distributed thoughtfully, fairly and in a way that will have the biggest impact for the people of Ohio,” she said.

Ohio distributed $55.2 million in October to help Ohioans make mortgage, rent and utility payments.

Also, state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, introduced a bill Tuesday with Rep. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, to provide about $125 million in federal funds for bars, restaurants and the lodging industry impacted by the pandemic.

“During and post-pandemic, it’s vital we provide (these industries) with the opportunity for this relief,” Cutrona said. “While it’s sadly too late for some, it is my hope this substantial aid delivers much needed dollars that keep our local businesses running.”

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