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‘We don’t have anything left’: Ohio Lt. Governor on the need for stimulus

Lt. Governor of Ohio Jon Husted joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss the state's need for stimulus.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to bring on Ohio's Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted now for more on the economic impact this is having on the state of Ohio. So Lieutenant Governor, I know that you're a Republican. And this is where I want to start with you. And Ohio's governor is also a Republican. And, yet, we have seen and heard from Republicans on the Hill in Washington but have been fighting Democrats on disseminating aid to states and local government.

And this aid to states and local governments might not make it in this $900-- $900 billion-- excuse me-- package. I'm wondering what you're saying to members in your own party what you would say to your counterparts in Congress about the need for economic aid for a state like Ohio. And I'm wondering if you feel disappointed by that stance that they're taking.

JON HUSTED: Well, look, I think that they're hung up over liability issues and state and local government issues. We hope that Democrats and Republicans will come together and work that out. But we want what we can get as soon as we can get it. We know our businesses of our state need aid. We know that we need money for the distribution of the vaccine. We know that we have to extend broadband to children who maybe are not in physical school but need to do it online.

There are a lot of things that are in this bill that would be very helpful for us to get sooner rather than later. We have been doing our best to help all of these entities with the money we have in state government. But the federal government's the only one that has the ability to borrow. And they have to step in and help us in these areas. We'll take what we can get right now.

KRISTIN MYERS: So speaking about that, the state of Ohio has really stepped up where the federal government hasn't and has been giving out grants to restaurants, bars, and other businesses. I know this is funding that you actually got-- did receive from the first stimulus package. But I'm wondering how much longer the state of Ohio can float aid, you know, to businesses in need as your own state, of course, facing economic difficulties throughout this pandemic.

JON HUSTED: Yeah, that's why you heard me say we'll take what we can get now because we don't have anything left where we're at the end of our funding. We've given out $10,000 grants to small business. We've given $2,500 rebates to liquor license holders, bars, restaurants.

We've even tapped our Bureau of Workers Compensation Fund for $8 billion of aid to businesses to try to keep them going through this very difficult time. And the coming two, three months are still going to be difficult even though we have a vaccine. So we've really gotten all the money out there that we have left. There's a few-- few dollars here and there. But we need to have that for testing for vaccine distribution what we have going on right now.

So this is very timely. The Congress needs to get us what they can so we can get this distributed, because just when you pass a bill does not put a check in somebody's hand. It takes time to administer this. It takes time to get it out there. So we need it-- we need action now.

KRISTIN MYERS: To that point, obviously, it might take weeks before money actually starts flowing. And we did talk just yesterday with the US chamber of Commerce. And according to them, 2/3 of small businesses say that they can't wait for aid and that they actually might shut down-- that they're going to be closing. Is that the same economic reality that you're seeing in Ohio? And what is going to be the broader economic impact if you really start to see a lot more businesses shudder across the state?

JON HUSTED: Look, there are many businesses who are running on fumes right now. They're just doing everything they can to keep the doors open. And the consequence of that for people, though, is that many-- many employees have been laid off. many more potentially laid off. This is hurting people in their daily lives, their jobs their businesses. And we want these small businesses to be there when we come out of this.

We know that large companies, like Amazon and others, have flourished during this. The small businesses have been the ones that have been hurt. They're the ones that require the in-person experiences. And we got to help them get through this, or they won't be there when we come out of it.

KRISTIN MYERS: So Lieutenant Governor, you said just a moment ago that essentially, you guys have nothing left, really. What are the budget shortfalls in the state of Ohio right now? And are you guys facing cuts next year? How severe might those get?

JON HUSTED: Yeah, well, we made early decisions on spending. We cut across the board in our state. But where we're going to really feel it going forward are things like Medicaid and other things, as people don't have jobs. They go on public assistance for their health care. And that tab runs in the billions for a state like Ohio.

And so we'll have a very hard time funding schools at the level we need. And understand-- we're going to need money for summer school and for after-school programs to catch these kids up. Many of them have fallen behind. There's going to need to be sustained efforts to catch these kids up. And so resources that we can get-- everything that we can get along those lines with the flexibility to spend it the way we need to are helpful.

We really hope they get this package done before they break for Christmas. If there's more-- if there's more that they want to do next year regarding liability form and aid for state and local governments. we would value that too.

KRISTIN MYERS: Just to clarify, it sounds like what I'm hearing is that in the state of Ohio, at least, that because of the pandemic and obviously the economic constraints that this pandemic has put on your state and the necessary cuts that have to have been made is that Ohio's poorest and some of their most vulnerable populations are going to be some of the worst impacted. Is-- are you guys-- is that what you're saying? Is that exactly how you're seeing it-- this that is lack of aid is directly impacting some folks that are already struggling and going through hard times?

JON HUSTED: Well, look, that's what government does. State governments provide assistance for education for helping people go to college for Medicaid. That's what state governments do. And so when our businesses get hurt, when they lay people off, the trickle down is that creates greater costs for state government. And then state governments are then in a position where they have to cut back on providing that assistance.

So we need-- we need-- this-- look, this is a time government at the state, local federal level-- we need to work together. We need to be honest about what our needs are. We know that everybody's hurting. And we have to pull a package together that helps states with the necessary things, not bailouts. We're not looking-- we're not looking to be bailed out anything. We're just looking to maintain a level of service, because we get-- when the economy goes down, we have more costs.

And so all of these things with aid to small business, so they don't have to lay people off, that helps our bottom line. But also, we have kids that we need to catch up. We have health care we need to provide. And we're going to need the support of the federal government to be able to sustain that into next year.

KRISTIN MYERS: So we have the vaccine starting to be rolled out already, at least, Pfizer's vaccine. Moderna is coming possibly as soon as next week. For the state of Ohio, what kind of guidance have you received from the federal government if any? Or do you guys feel kind of left alone that you have to figure out how you're going to get this vaccine distributed to all of Ohio's residents?

JON HUSTED: We feel pretty good about it at this point. We have good guidance from the CDC on prioritization. We're following that prioritization or get into the hospitals. We're getting front line EMS personnel, nurses, people that deal directly with COVID patients. We're getting them the vaccines. We start tomorrow on distribution to staff and residents at long-term care facilities, our nursing homes. These are the priorities. That's phase one.

We hope to have 500,000 doses hopefully by the end of the year. That will substantially allow us to get everybody in those priority categories vaccinated hopefully by early January. That's a good start. Well, one thing is that we could use better information about the timing of when we're going to get these things. I think once the Moderna vaccine clears FDA approval and we get an emergency use authorization that more clarity will come.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Ohio's Lieutenant Governor, Jon Husted. Thanks so much for joining us today.