Rep. Tim Ryan: Mahoning Hospitals At 60 Percent Capacity

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
Americans would receive $2,000 a month as the pandemic continues under a plan introduced this week by Youngstown Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan. [ideastream]

Mahoning County hospitals are operating at about 60 percent capacity and the buildout continues for care at Youngstown’s Covelli Centre arena, according to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles).

"While the death rate is high, we are still prepared," Ryan said during a virtual press conference Thursday morning. "The Covelli Centre is still teed up. It's on hold, but it could take another 200 to 250 beds. So, that was the planning from the last month or so."

Ryan believes Mahoning County's older population and heavy traffic through Rt. 80 partly explains the disproportionate number of cases and deaths from COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Ryan and California Democrat Ro Khanna introduced a bill that would provide a $2,000 check to Americans every month during the crisis. While the proposal is getting a lot of attention, Ryan said the discussion is still in the early stages.

Ryan also said he favors more funding for the struggling U.S. Postal Service and for mail-in ballots, but is getting resistance from Republicans.

"You have people handling mail that could potentially be carrying the virus, but yet they wouldn't qualify for the family and medical leave provisions we were able to get to everyone else in the country," Ryan said. "Again, this is a direct attack on the Postal Service."

President Trump wants to "sell the Postal Service for parts," Ryan said.

"That's going to do nothing but jack up the prices for the other two main competitors that are active in delivering goods to our homes," Ryan said. "It's also a direct attack on trying to prevent mail-in ballots in the fall. You can bet your bottom dollar the president does not want that to happen. He said he doesn't want that to happen."

Amid the pandemic, Mahoning County still has major economic and development projects in the works.

The General Motors-LG Chem battery plant could bring as many as 1,100 jobs to the area, Ryan said, but the virus is likely to delay the plant’s construction as well as production of the Endurance electric truck from Lordstown Motors. 

"Both of these projects are online to go once we start reopening and again, once that happens we've got some super big projects and possibilities," said Ryan, who has recently been in touch with Motors CEO Steve Burns.

The Endurance was set to debut at the Detroit Auto Show in June.

"They're continuing to move on track and moving down the line and they're still very, very excited about it," Ryan said. "But, when you have the issues around the financial markets and all the rest, it is going to delay things."

Ryan was unclear if any of the scheduled public meetings addressing the environmental concerns surrounding construction of the GM-LG Chem the battery plant took place virtually. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already signed off on a plan to add more than 130 acres of wetlands in the area as part of an agreement that allows the companies to build on 66 acres of existing wetlands. 

Ryan says Media jobs disappearing in the Youngstown and elsewhere is a serious concern, Ryan said, and he is asking Congress to send 50 percent of government funding for the Federal Communications Commission to local media.

"When you see the demise of local media and local reporting, it's a huge a problem because there's nobody at the school board meeting, there's nobody at the council meeting, there's nobody on the ground," Ryan said.

Media losses are not just about job losses, he said.

"It's also about providing a level of sunlight and transparency to government," Ryan said. "You know, politicians always have a very complicated relationship with the media and that's to be expected."

Ryan’s proposal would pare down the contribution to local media to 25 percent of FCC funding the following year.

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