Ohio launches online application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

Part time and self-employed workers can now apply for benefits
Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - After nearly two months of waiting, people can finally apply to receive benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The state of Ohio launched its online application for PUA Tuesday morning.

PUA is designed to provide relief to servers like Tess Haramis who didn’t meet the income thresholds to receive regular unemployment benefits.

She and other part-time or self-employed workers were eager to file Tuesday.

“I was like 'Oh, thank God finally. I just need to have something coming in," Haramis said.

The state is sending out email blasts to people who pre-registered for the program, said ODJFS Director Kim Hall.

She said 90,000 emails go out in each round in order to stagger the amount of people applying at once.

The unemployment office is asking that people wait until they receive their email before going to the PUA website.

“We’re not blocking anyone, but again we are trying to manage the volume,” Hall said.

As of 10 a.m., Hall said 6,000 applications came in.

People who are approved can expect to see the money in their bank accounts by early next week, according to Hall.

So why did it take so long for the system to get up and running?

More than half of states are already paying out PUA benefits which are provided by the CARES act passed in March.

“States who had cloud based systems to begin with absolutely were farther ahead,” Hall said.

Ohio did not. Hall says Ohio had signed a contract at the end of last year to begin converting to a cloud based system, though.

“And then COVID happened and we had to pivot and focus on building our system,” Hall said.

Hall says Ohio’s unemployment system was built in 2004. The new PUA system has to partially be connected to the current system.

“We had to build a brand new system,” Hall said. “Some states were already cloud based and it was malleable to tacking on a new system.”

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