Attorney General Dave Yost’s Coronavirus Resources & Guidance

Attorney General Dave Yost’s Coronavirus Resources & Guidance

Ohio has come together to take aggressive action to help protect you, your family and all other residents of the Buckeye State from the COVID-19 pandemic. With our work and home lives drastically altered by this necessary period of social distancing, the office of Attorney General Dave Yost is here to help, whether you are a consumer trying to avoid scams and price gouging or a member of a public body seeking to continue conducting meetings transparently.

For guidance and information beyond what is provided on this webpage, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.

To file a complaint about a business acting badly, visit www.OhioProtects.org.

For Consumers

COVID-19 stimulus checks

 

Stimulus checks: Protected from bill collectors

“Stimulus checks were intended to be used during an emergency – to put food on the table, keep the lights on and a roof over our heads,” Attorney General Yost said in a warning to bill collectors to keep their hands off. “They weren't meant to pay off an old bill.”

Yost has alerted creditors and financial institutions that COVID-19 stimulus checks are protected under existing Ohio law and also are exempt from state and federal attachment, garnishment or execution.

Read his notice here.

Find more details in this news release.

Receiving your money

The federal government is sending money directly to many Americans to help alleviate the financial toll of the coronavirus. Know that the government WILL NOT:

  • Ask you to pay any fees to get the money.
  • Call you to get your Social Security, bank account or credit card number, or your PayPal information, in order to issue your check or directly deposit your money.
  • Direct how you use the money.

In most cases, the assistance will be sent directly to you if you qualify, based on the income you already reported to the federal government on this year’s or last year’s tax returns. (For more details, visit the IRS webpage here.) Anyone who tells you they can get you your money faster is a scammer.

If you received a stimulus check for an odd amount of money (for example, $1499.50) or if it states you need to verify the check online or over the phone, it’s a scam.

You should get a paper notice in the mail a couple weeks after your payment is sent, letting you know where it was sent and when. If you can’t locate the payment at that point, call the IRS at a legitimate phone number.

For more information, read this news release.

Scams to note

 

General advice

  • Watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other expert sources with special advice or information about the coronavirus. Legitimate information is available for free on the CDC’s website.
  • Ignore online advertisements promoting cures for the coronavirus. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “There currently are no vaccines, pills, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) online or in stores.”
  • Research nonprofit organizations and crowdfunding campaigns before donating. A database of registered charities is available on the website of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Avoid groups that pressure you into donating, and never donate via cash, gift cards, wire transfer or prepaid money card. These are the preferred payment methods of scammers.
  • Be cautious of anyone going door to door offering coronavirus testing or temperature readings and requesting personal information. Call law enforcement immediately if you see a suspicious person. Never let strangers into your home.
  • Beware of emails and other attempts to “phish” for your personal, financial and medical information. When in doubt, do not share. If the source claims to be your bank or a government agency, confirm that it is legitimate by calling the organization at a phone number you have verified.
  • When online, avoid clicking on unknown links or pop-ups and never download any suspicious email attachment. Doing so could infect your devices with malicious software designed to steal your personal information or lock your computer until you pay a “ransom.”

Be a smart consumer


Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

Be aware that…
  • If you haven’t filed your state and federal taxes for 2019, both deadlines have been extended to July 15.
  • If you can’t pay your utility bills, your water cannot be legally shut off and Ohio’s emergency programs have been extended. Visit coronavirus.ohio.gov for more information.
  • If you're having problems paying your mortgage or rent, a new resource (a cooperative effort from several agencies of the federal government) offers up-to-date information on available housing assistance.
Price gouging

Price gouging is when a business or other seller drastically raises the price of an item that is temporarily in short supply, as toilet paper and surgical masks currently are. In Ohio, a state law bans unconscionable sales practices, which would include price gouging even though the law doesn’t define what constitutes gouging. Attorney General Yost is working with legislators to clarify the law while seeking to preserve the free market economy. For more information, see this press release.

Attorney General Yost and 32 other attorneys general have urged online businesses such as Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist to more rigorously fight price gouging by sellers using their services. Read more here.

In March, the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General’s Office received more than 400 complaints about price gouging.

If you believe a business is charging unfair prices, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 1-800-282-0515.

Support local businesses

Local businesses reopening

The state of Ohio is authorizing many different types of businesses to reopen — as long as they take precautions to protect the health of their customers and employees. Find more details on which businesses are permitted to be open and how they should be operating on this webpage. The vast majority of local stores, restaurants and services are diligently following Ohio Health Department recommendations in this time of essential social distancing. However, if you find a business that is failing to live up to its responsibilities, file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office at OhioProtects.org

Canceled events: Refunds or rescheduled?

Many consumers are questioning what to do about events for which they had purchased tickets. The most up-to-date information can be found by calling or visting the website of the venue or ticket seller. The Attorney General's Office compiled contact information and gives other advice here.

For Parents

Keep Kids Safe from Online Predators

For Governmental Bodies and the Justice System

Open meetings

On March 27, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 197, allowing members of public bodies to hold and attend meetings, and to conduct hearings, by teleconference, video conference or any similar electronic technology. Such meetings are legal for as long as the governor’s coronavirus emergency remains in effect, up until Dec. 20, 2020.

The details:

  • Members attending the meeting through the body’s chosen electronic method count as present and count toward a quorum. They are permitted to vote on any issues that come before the body.
  • Any resolution, rule or other formal action taken or adopted by the public body during such a session will have the same effect as one taken during an in-person meeting.
  • The public body is required to give notice of the meeting to the media and other parties requiring notice at least 24 hours before it takes place. In an emergency situation, the public body must give notice as soon as practical.
  • Members of the public must be provided access to the public body’s discussions and deliberations conducted via the electronic method to the same extent that they would get from attending in person. That includes the ability for the viewer/listener to hear every member participating in person or electronically. Examples of electronic methods that afford public access (and that are cited in the law) include live-streaming via the internet; local radio, television, cable or public access channels; and calling in to a teleconference.
  • For a public hearing, the electronic method the public body uses for the meeting must be widely available to the public and must permit the public to converse with witnesses and receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.

For more information on the legislation that was passed, click here.

For frequently asked questions, click here.

Courts and jury trials

Tolls

House Bill 197, signed into law on March 27, included tolls on statutes of limitations and other deadlines set by Ohio Revised Code. Tolls can be understood as interruptions, or freezes, in a timeline. This one was made retroactive to March 9, 2020 – when Gov. DeWine declared a state of emergency – and lasts until July 30, 2020. For the latest on the Ohio Supreme Court's toll orders, visit this resource page.

Jury trials

On March 18, Attorney General Yost issued an opinion that courts may suspend jury trials without risking speedy-trial obligations. For more information, read this press release.

COVID-19 mitigation at courts

Court proceedings are considered essential government functions under Ohio Health Director Amy Acton’s “Stay at Home Order.” Essential services include arraignments, domestic violence orders and child protection orders. But courts are permitted to mitigate coronavirus risks by, among other actions, limiting public access to the building to those with direct business before the court. The use of technology is encouraged, as is teleworking for staff members when possible.

For more information, visit the Ohio Supreme Court’s coronavirus resource page.

Law enforcement

Staffing

The need for ample law enforcement officers to protect Ohioans is critical, but given the nature of their job, officers don’t have the option to work from home. What’s more, their frequent interactions with the public put them at increased risk of catching the coronavirus.

To help bolster their ranks, or provide backup should officers get sick, Attorney General Yost has directed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) to expedite the final examinations of about 300 police cadets who have completed their schooling.

The attorney general also is working with local agencies to create a pathway for recently retired law enforcement officers in good standing to return to the streets. This would involve an extended period to complete required OPOTA training, as well as potentially minimized training requirements. More than 1,000 peace officers retire each year in Ohio.

For more information, read this press release.

Resources for enforcing health orders

Local law enforcement agencies might find that businesses or individuals in their area are putting the community’s health at greater risk by flouting the emergency orders of Ohio Health Director Amy Acton. The Attorney General’s Office supports enforcement of Dr. Action’s Stay-at-Home Order and offers the following guidance to local authorities statewide.

Law enforcement webinar

In this video, Attorney General Yost and other experts from his office explain what rules Ohioans should be following; the associated statutes, remedies and criminal penalties; and pleadings, letters and other communications that can be sent to businesses.

 

Sample documents

In Parma Heights, a consignment home furnishings shop — clearly not an essential business — refused to close, even after Parma Heights police officers issued a misdemeanor citation. The county prosecutor, at the local health department’s request, filed a case in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to force the business to close. These documents can serve as models or otherwise help as you craft your own court filings:

The following links contain letters sent by Attorney General Yost to businesses that were allegedly violating the stay-at-home order.

Canceled Events

Events presented by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office that have been canceled:

Ohio Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony

The 2020 Ohio Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony, previously scheduled for May 7, has been canceled in response to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers statewide attend the annual ceremony at the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy in London, Ohio, to honor fallen colleagues and their families. A private ceremony will be scheduled at a later date for the families and agencies of officers killed in the line of duty in 2019. In addition, those officers and their families will receive full recognition at the 2021 ceremony.

Two Days in May

The 2020 Two Days in May Conference on Victim Assistance, previously scheduled for May 21-22 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, has been canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

Two Days in May is an annual training event where victims’ advocates from throughout the state receive updates about best practices, trends and developments in the field; network with colleagues who also advocate for victims; and honor those doing exceptional work in the field. More than 1,200 people attended the conference in 2019.

Registration for the virtual "One Day in May" conference has been closed due to high demand. That event, set for May 21, will feature speakers and the awards handed out every year at the conference.