Strong returns on investments are allowing Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation to send rebate checks to businesses and government agencies around the state.

CANTON  Area business owners have checks coming their way courtesy of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

For the fourth time since 2013, the agency is sending rebate checks to businesses and government agencies. More than $89.2 million is being returned to the Canton and Akron region, with $15.3 million going to government entities and $73.9 million divided among businesses.

State officials want to be certain that business owners pay attention to their mail and cash the checks, some of which already have been mailed.

Businesses are free to use the rebate as they see fit. But Mark Clendenin, BWC's regional business development manager, said he hopes companies use the cash to help make the workplace safer.

"It's a smart investment. It's just smart business," he said.

The funds being disbursed are part of a $1.5 billion rebate being distributed statewide. Clendenin visited Canton on Wednesday and announced the rebate for area counties during a press conference at the Ken Weber Community Campus at Goodwill.

Anne Richards, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio, said it is a blessing to have the rebate available to reinvest in the organization. The agency has nearly 600 employees through a network of 24 retail locations and mission programs around Ohio and West Virginia.

Richards said Goodwill will use the rebate to provide more job training to people with disabilities, offer more services to sexual assault victims and help more people working to overcome barriers.

Local governments also benefit from the rebate.

Stark County will receive more than $800,000 that will go to the general fund and special enterprise funds. More than $1.2 million is being returned to Canton and Canton City Schools. Stark County Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton, who attended Wednesday's event, said it's good to see the money come back to the community.

Clendenin said the rebate is equal to about 85 percent of the premium paid by businesses and government agencies for 2016 and 2017.

Rebates are possible because BWC's investment income has grown, while claims have dropped. The agency also cited prudent fiscal management. Premiums to BWC are invested and the agency is required to maintain specific funding levels. When BWC exceeds set funding levels, it uses the excess to pay for new programs or issues rebates.

The additional $1.5 billion rebate, which was approved in May, brings the total to $8 billion returned by the agency since 2011.

Locally, businesses and  government entities in Stark County will see more than $26.1 million returned, while more than $40.6 million is being returned to Summit County, $9.26 million to Portage County, $8.91 million to Wayne County and $4.27 million to Holmes County.

Along with the rebate, BWC has made a two-year, $44 million investment in safety. The agency will increase its annual Safety Intervention Grant Program to $20 million from $15 million for the next two years. As part of that increase, $4 million each is set aside for Ohio police departments and schools, in addition to $2 million for state agencies and $2 million to continue funding research at universities and research organizations.

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