Utility and fossil fuel interests still ahead in Ohio under House Bill 6

A surgical repeal of parts of the 2019 bailout law means utilities, fossil fuel interests and nuclear plants still benefit. This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Utilities, fossil fuel interests and nuclear plants are still reaping advantages over clean energy in Ohio, despite last month’s repeal of part of the law at the heart of an alleged $60 million corruption scandal. A federal complaint released last July alleged an unlawful conspiracy to elect lawmakers who would favor Rep. Larry Householder as House speaker, secure passage of House Bill 6 and defend it against a referendum.

No Comprendo Covid: Pandemic reveals lack of bilingual health workers

In the early months of the pandemic, Cleveland Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, who represents a West Side ward with the densest population of Latinos in the city, said health department officials reassured her that when the city released urgent health updates, they would be translated into Spanish. 

It didn’t happen. 

The city put out public releases, sometimes daily, as the pandemic evolved – about safety precautions, work restrictions, and how many people were infected with the virus – but the information didn’t seem to make its way to the Spanish-speaking residents in Santana’s ward, where close to 40% of residents are Hispanic. 

When she pressed again, this time with city communications officials, Santana said she was told the city didn’t have resources for translation. 

One high-ranking city official suggested Santana and her office should create Spanish-language versions to distribute, she said. 

The reaction startled her. 

“I almost didn’t know how to respond,” Santana said. “That's when I started really realizing, ‘You know what? This is a huge issue for the city.’ Who would have thought that a city with more than 300,000 residents wouldn’t be ready to have their communications translated?” 

(A city spokesperson did respond to questions about what Santana was told.)

Santana’s concerns as a councilwoman were rooted in what she’d witnessed growing up in her community and later as a health outreach worker: that language and trust act as barriers to resources that can improve or save lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on a chronically underfunded public health system that already faced staggering disparities in access to medical care and health outcomes, especially for people with limited English proficiency. 

But the crisis also has offered an opportunity, which some local health departments have embraced, to forge relationships and connections that could outlast the virus. 

Cleveland, a city that declared racism a public health crisis almost a year ago, with officials vowing to tackle disparities and inequities, has seen some progress but it has been sluggish. 

Despite a windfall in pandemic aid, Cleveland still has not beefed up its own contract tracing operations by adding bilingual staff. Instead, it has relied on the state health department for virtual assistance with Spanish-speaking residents and a language translation line.

Critics fear investors’ push for profits could thwart other FirstEnergy priorities

FirstEnergy news raises questions about grid resiliency and clean energy approaches to cope with climate change. A notorious investor’s plan to acquire a significant stake in FirstEnergy voting shares has critics worried that pressure to turn quick profits could undercut the company’s duties to ratepayers and need to invest in a cleaner and more resilient grid. In its Feb. 18 earnings call, FirstEnergy revealed it had received notice of Icahn Capital’s intent to acquire between $184 million and $920 million in voting securities. The fund would have a minority voting interest, but it might be enough to sway changes in its board of directors, company management and more.

Fighting to open closed doors: how advocates stepped up efforts to help sex trafficking survivors in a world where hiding victims is easier than ever

This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. For women survivors of sex trafficking struggling to make ends meet, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already desperate situation. Funding programs to support them have shifted to more urgent crisis funding— to house and feed the homeless, for example. Losing financial and food security only places these already scuffling women at an even greater risk of being trafficked again to earn money just to survive.

Ohio clean energy foe at the forefront of key points in bailout law and ratification efforts

House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz called the law at the heart of an alleged corruption case “the best energy bill we ever passed.”

This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. Documents made available last week show how House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, championed gutting Ohio’s clean energy standards in the state’s 2019 coal and nuclear bailout law. He has since served as a force against repeal. Claims in a federal complaint released in July indicate that the law was at the heart of an alleged corruption scheme involving roughly $60 million.

FirstEnergy faces another audit as advocates and others press for broader investigations

The order comes as newly released documents point to a larger role on legislative matters for the former utilities commission chair. This article provided by Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism in partnership with the nonprofit Energy News Network. Please join our free mailing list or the mailing list for the Energy New Network as this helps us provide more public service reporting. An upcoming audit could reveal whether FirstEnergy improperly used ratepayer money to funnel millions of dollars to an alleged unlawful conspiracy to pass and defend the state’s coal and nuclear bailout law. The Dec.

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services tries to bolster its own workforce by posting jobs with no medical benefits in pandemic

This article is from Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join their free mailing list, as this helps provide more public service reporting. Amid a raging pandemic, Ohio’s agency responsible for looking out for workers’ welfare has started posting full-time temporary jobs with no benefits for its own workforce. 

For example, this week the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) sought to hire an “electronic design specialist,” a job that requires a bachelor’s degree, years of experience, or some combination of both. The hours listed are full time, with a schedule that is “not negotiable” and the position is “not eligible” for benefits.  

As total COVID-19 cases in the state soared to nearly 600,000 and deaths rose to almost 8,000, Eye on Ohio asked why the positions are listed without medical benefits when large employers have to give most of their workforce— even temporary workers— medical insurance eventually under the Affordable Care Act, or pay a penalty. 

A spokesman for ODJFS said “Benefit eligibility under the ACA for temporary or part-time positions is determined based on the length of time employed and hours worked during that period of time.” 

Eye on Ohio further inquired if the positions have a set end date and why officials listed positions with no health care as the chances of getting a debilitating disease have risen. Officials did not respond to multiple requests to comment. 

Each job posting begins with, “The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ mission is to improve the well-being of Ohio's workforce and families by promoting economic self-sufficiency and ensuring the safety of Ohio's most vulnerable citizens.”

But it’s not clear if ODJFS’ own workers could be self-sufficient with its own positions: according to Heatlhcare.gov, a monthly premium for a nonsmoking family of four in Columbus is approximately $810. That’s about 24% of what an ODJFS electronic design would make after taxes.