ODJFS director addresses questions about unemployment claims and the overloaded system

Website to file Ohio unemployment claims is down for 2nd day in a row during coronavirus pandemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Hundreds of Ohioans that are out of work are still trying to file a claim with the unemployment office.

The site where people are supposed to file a claim continues to go up and down.

After days of reaching out 19 News obtained some direction from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, 19 News got our viewer questions to the director today.

The director says the unemployment office was preparing for this influx of claims, but the plan is not working as well as they’d hoped.

After days of reaching out, 19 News investigators finally obtained some direction from the state's unemployment office today. WATCH HERE:

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Brenda Schiralli-Rothenberg is one of many waiting for answers from the unemployment office.

“Do you have my claim? Am I going to get paid?” she asked. “We just want to be taken care of.”

The hotel she’d been working at laid off workers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a lot of us,” she said.

Kim Hall is the director of ODJFS.

Tuesday, Hall sat down to answer questions over Skype.

“All I can ask is for patience in this really critical time,” Hall said. “Our plan is working, just not as well and as rapidly as we’d like it to,” Hall said.

She says unlike the recession in 2008 that came in waves, the unemployment claims came all at once this time.

That caused the state’s website to completely crash Monday afternoon.

When we asked what we should tell those of you reaching out to us, reporting that you cannot get through, Hall said, “Their date of unemployment remains the same and so the benefits will flow based on that date.”

To ease the panic, Hall wants people to know that even if the department has to backdate a check, people filing claims will get paid.

“We do encourage them to keep trying. Please don’t keep clicking the same buttons to get into the system, though,” Hall said.

Instead, she says you should back all the way out and start over.

Additionally Hall says the state is shifting some state workers from other offices to answer the phones.

“We do have the man power to do it, we’re working very rapidly on the system,” she said.

Last week, Hall says the office got more than 30,000 calls.

Many of the calls we got in the newsroom today were from people who were already on unemployment before this pandemic....

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Many of the calls our 19 News newsroom got today were from people who were already on unemployment before this pandemic.

They usually get their checks on Tuesday.

They want to know, why didn’t their payment come through today?

Hall wants to assure them that they will be paid-- eventually.

“The deposits are coming,' she said.

She doesn’t know how long the payments that usually appear on Tuesdays will be delayed though.

“We’re working as hard as we can, I don’t have a time frame on that, but everyone is acutely aware,” she said.

In Ohio, people are only able to receive unemployment for 26 weeks.

Tuesday, Hall said if you are about to hit that limit, there’s nothing the state can do for you right now.

"At present, no, we don’t have the authority to make that extension.

They're working with the federal government to possibly change that.

Hall says about a billion dollars remains in the unemployment fund right now.

She said she is confident that will get Ohio through this challenging pandemic period.

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