Covid-19 has been a trying time for everyone, business included. Businesses have needed help to keep employees employed, keep the lights on, and to continue operating to serve their clients. There has been help in the form of forgivable loans such as the Payment Protection Program and the Disaster Loan Program. Ohio employers found themselves benefiting from the most unlikely place – The Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. Due to a strong fund, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (OBWC) was able to provide relief to employers across the state on three occasions during 2020.
First, in April OBWC gave a Billion Back Rebate which was equal to 100% of premiums paid in 2018. The timing was critical because many businesses were forced to close in March and April due to the pandemic and the Governor’s Order forcing business to close to try and flatten the curve.
Second, the BWC issued another Billion Back Rebate in October 2020. This rebate was 100% of the premiums paid for policy year 2019. Again, this was another boost to employers during a year when any extra cash would help keep employees employed, lights on, and business open to serve customers. Yes, these rebates were refunds of premiums paid in previous years, but it was still a needed economic boost for many businesses when they really needed it.
The third, and most incredible thing the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation did was issue a third Billion Back Rebate for 372% of premiums paid in policy year 2019. This rebate was above and beyond premiums paid into the system. It was not a refund of premiums, but a cash payment far more than premiums paid into the state fund. Business small and large received cash payments. We had some clients receive a few million dollars during this final rebate of 2020.
Hunter Consulting has clients all over the state of Ohio. Our clients range in size from small companies with 2 employees to large companies with over 35,000 employees. We have enjoyed hearing them tell us how they plan to use the extra money. For many businesses, this final rebate gave them the funds to keep serving their customers, but for many it allowed them to set aside cash reserves, invest in new equipment, new technology, and most importantly the people who work in their businesses every day.
From innovations to paying for basic operating expenses, we have learned from our clients a variety of creative ways they have been able to use the funds. In the early months, we saw operations able to shift quickly and fill a great need in PPE that was running low on supply. We saw brewers and distillers shift their manufacturing to create standard grade hand sanitizer which was extremely difficult to find in the spring. We had a construction company who had to put a lease on new office space on hold be able to not only lease that space but renovate it as well. There are many other great stories of how companies have been able to use the rebates.
Now, certainly there could be debate about the rates charged prior to the pandemic that would result in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation having such a large surplus. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has had strong investment performance over the last several years which has enabled the fund to grow. I am just glad that our state was able to help so many businesses when they needed it most. I am hopeful that Ohio businesses will come out of this pandemic strong and we will see our state’s businesses grow and thrive after we put the pandemic in our rear-view mirror.