ODH COVID-19 travel guidance changed

OHIO — The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is no longer issuing a travel advisory for those entering Ohio after traveling to states reporting positive testing rates of 15 percent or higher.
Instead, ODH is revising its travel guidance to encourage Ohioans to carefully review Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance when considering travel.
ODH officials stated this travel advisory change means the state-by-state list will not be updated. Officials are advising residents to continue practicing appropriate public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing facemasks, practicing physical distancing and washing hands.
Additional CDC guidance related to domestic travel during the COVID-19 pandemic includes:
• Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
• You can spread COVID-19 to family, friends and community after travel without symptoms.
• Delay travel after possible exposure, even if not sick, and quarantine from other people, get tested and monitor your health.
• Do not travel if sick after testing positive for COVID-19 or with someone who is sick.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov and click on “Coronavirus Disease 2019” and then “Your Health.”


ODOT funding transportation to COVID-19 vaccine clinics

OHIO — The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is providing extra funding to local transit agencies and health departments to ensure all residents can get to vaccination sites.
According to ODOT officials, the Rides for Community Immunity program will provide a total of $7 million to all 88 counties to transport the most vulnerable populations to vaccine locations, either through public transport agencies or public health departments where there is no public transport.
Officials stated funding will be distributed based on the most recent U.S. Census data and will not require any local match.
Officials added public transit grant recipients will work with local county health departments and local emergency management agencies to identify the best way to use these funds, which may include vouchers for transit passes or other transportation resources.
“Transportation should not be a hurdle to any eligible Ohioan who wants to be vaccinated,” said ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that access is available to all Ohioans, not just those with a vehicle or that live near a vaccination site.”
Residents in need of transportation to a clinic site can contact local agencies, including the Akron METRO Regional Transit Authority or Summit County Public Health, for more information, officials said.
“As public transit providers continue serving our communities through this pandemic, we are well positioned to coordinate with public health departments and county [emergency management agencies] to facilitate access to vaccination sites,” said Claudia Amrhein, general manager/CEO of Portage Area RTA and President of the Ohio Public Transportation Association.


AMATS presenting Transportation Outlook 2045

GREATER AKRON — The Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) will unveil the area’s Draft Transportation Outlook 2045 in a virtual meeting today, March 18, at 6:30 p.m.
To join the presentation on the plan, visit amatsplanning.org/cic-webinar or call 330-375-2436.
As the Greater Akron area’s federally designated metropolitan planning organization, AMATS prepares and updates the region’s long-range transportation plan every four years. Transportation Outlook 2045 identifies regional transportation needs and presents funding recommendations for highway, public transportation, bike and pedestrian projects.
This new plan recommends more than $7.7 billion in funding to meet identified needs over the next 24 years, officials said.
“More than $5.3 billion of these funds are for our region’s highways and nearly $2.4 billion is for public transit in Portage and Summit counties,” said AMATS Director Curtis Baker. “Our latest plan promotes sound regional land use strategies and the integration of all transportation modes while increasing mobility opportunities for all persons.”
The plan is also available for viewing at amatsplanning.org, with public comments accepted through May 12.


Tax filing more complicated this year, say legal advocates

GREATER AKRON — Community Legal Aid officials suggest tax filing this year may be more complex for low-income residents due to COVID-19 relief assistance.
“There are a number of new things to consider when filing your tax returns this year,” explained Legal Aid attorney Dana Goldstein.
Officials stated anyone who did not receive their full amount of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus money or economic impact payment can claim the recovery rebate credit when filing their tax returns if they believe someone else, such as a former spouse, received impact payments that should have been sent to them instead.
Also, any benefits received through unemployment are taxable, including supplemental payments such as the extra $600 provided through July under the CARES Act. Officials advise residents that receive a 1099G form from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for unemployment benefits they did not receive should report the error immediately by using their online portal at www.unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov or by calling 833-658-0394. Advocates are encouraging victims of the fraud to keep all documents related to the false claim, including confirmation that the fraud was reported.
Officials also stated there are new options for claiming the earned income tax credit, which can boost the amount of money low-income families get back from filing their taxes each year. Filers have the option this year to use their 2019 earned income when filing taxes.
Officials are urging low- to moderate-income residents to use Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs, which offer free tax preparation by certified preparers at a number of sites listed at irs.treasury.gov./freetaxprep or available by calling 211.


Police Academy scholarships available

SUMMIT COUNTY — Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and Sheriff Kandy Fatheree are sponsoring police academy scholarships for qualified deputy candidates in Summit County.
According to county officials, the deputy sheriff recruitment program was launched in 2019 in response to expected retirements in the agency. Officials from the Sheriff’s Office, the county Department of Job and Family Services, the OhioMeansJobs Center, United Labor Agency and The University of Akron partnered to leverage existing workforce funding to provide the scholarships.
Nine residents who received scholarships in 2019 and 2020 are now working as deputies, officials added.
“This innovative program meets two important needs in Summit County: the need to replace retiring deputies and the need to remove financial barriers for individuals interested in a law enforcement career,” said Shapiro. “This collaboration is making a difference, not just in the lives of the scholarship recipients, but for the entire community.”
Residents interested in the scholarship to attend the academy must complete a survey at sccares.formstack.com/forms/sheriff_cadet_recruitment, as well as a physical fitness assessment, fingerprints check, a general physical and a drug test, all by May 21.
Applicants must be age 20 or older, have a valid driver’s license, a GED or high school diploma, not have used drugs (including marijuana) within the last two years and have no felony conviction, domestic violence convictions or two or more OVI convictions.
Full-time and part-time classes at the police academy will begin Aug. 2.
Officials stated applicants selected to receive a scholarship would receive tuition, uniforms and additional resources needed to successfully complete the police academy coursework. The program guarantees employment with the Sheriff’s Office upon graduation.
“As sheriff, one of my primary goals is to increase diversity among our workforce,” said Fatheree. “For residents who have dreamed about working in law enforcement but could not afford to attend the police academy or purchase course materials, now is the chance to make that dream a reality.”


Maria Lindsay contributed to these reports.

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