Ohioans out of work for a 2nd time this year frustrated as they try to re-enter the unemployment system

Updated: Jun. 9, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Several Ohioans are frustrated, trying to re-enter the unemployment system they thought they wouldn’t need any more this year.

They say their return to work last month was short lived. Now, they’re stuck without income again.

Some local companies are asking workers to take another furlough week this summer to save money.

And, several Cleveland restaurants closed again, unable to overcome the strain of the virus combined with physical damage done during the recent protests.

The employees in both situations have to figure out how to get back on unemployment.

“I think a lot of people are just guessing at this point and hoping it works out,” Birdie Lewkowski said.

19 News Investigators set out to determine the quickest way for people in that position to start receiving payments this time, while the system remains outdated and overwhelmed.

After weeks of waiting to get off unemployment, Lewkowski thought she was home free.

“We all just went back to work and it disappeared again,” she said.

Just days after she started earning money back at Corner Alley downtown, rioters destroyed the place.

Lewkowski is laid off yet again, now back to square one.

She says after being laid off the first time in March, it took about a month to see any money come through from the overloaded unemployment system. She never got through to anyone on the phone.

“I just waited it out because it wasn’t going anywhere,” she said. “I was just getting more frustrated trying."

19 investigates asked ODJFS Director Kim Hall how people who unexpectedly need to re-enter the unemployment system should go about it going forward.

“There’s a formal way to reengage, so we’ll do that as a follow-up,” Hall said on a call Tuesday morning. She promised further information later.

Lewkowski says she did file claims for the weeks she worked in May, knowing she would be denied payment.

She’s hoping that may have helped keep her account active.

However, when we asked the state about doing that, a spokesperson advised others not to continue filing “just in case.”

He says people who need assistance again should instead figure out how to reopen their existing unemployment claim.

They will receive the additional $600 weekly until the July cut-off date.

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