Ohio’s small business owners are still feeling the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic challenges faced by so many is reflected in the number of Ohio businesses that sought and accepted Paycheck Protection Loans (PPP) as well as the volume of individuals that filed for and were granted unemployment compensation benefits. The Ohio General Assembly took steps like extending deadlines for licensure renewals and business filings as well as mutualizing unemployment claims to not directly impact employers’ experience ratings. However, the long-term effects of this pandemic will likely be felt for years.
Most businesses have reopened in some capacity and are working to bring back customers and employees. A critical element to helping make an economic rebound is providing business owners with certainty they will not face a meritless lawsuit related to COVID.
NFIB in Ohio conducted a survey of our members on a host of COVID related issues. Over 70 percent of our members indicated fear of a lawsuit! NFIB has been a leader in advocating for liability protections for Ohio businesses. We have supported legislation that provides appropriate protections to businesses who are not acting in a reckless manner or with intentional or willful or wanton misconduct. This ensures that businesses that are taking measures to protect their employees and customers do not face a flood of lawsuits.
This week, votes were taken in both legislative chambers on House Bill 606. After going to conference committee, both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate passed the bill offering liability protection that will give businesses more confidence as they continue to provide necessary goods, services, and products and help boost Ohio’s economy. It has been a long-drawn-out process, but small business secured a victory!
“It is certainly very welcomed news to small business owners that House Bill 606 has cleared the Ohio Legislature. Our survey showed over 70 percent of Ohio entrepreneurs said they are fearful of a COVID-19 related lawsuit as we work to emerge from the pandemic,” said Roger Geiger, Executive Director for NFIB in Ohio. “This is the last thing business owners of this state need to be worried about given all they have gone through in the past six months.”
“Small businesses faced a significant economic impact as a result of COVID-19. They have worked diligently to keep their operations safe for employees and customers alike. These responsible owners should not have to face potential lawsuits, which could devastate a business, for a virus they did not create and cannot prevent.”
“Under the provisions in House Bill 606, schools, non-profits, local governments will be protected from frivolous claims of exposure, transmission, or contraction for COVID-19, unless they acted with reckless or intentional misconduct or willful or wanton misconduct. We offer our appreciation to the strong leadership shown by Speaker of the House Bob Cupp and Senate President Larry Obhof for their understanding of how important these protections are for the economic engine of Ohio, small business, to help reignite our economy,” Geiger concluded.