19 Investigates: How will Ohio pay for extended unemployment benefits?

Updated: Jul. 7, 2020 at 7:33 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As many people remain jobless, Ohioans will be able to draw unemployment longer.

19 News first alerted you about the benefits extension Monday.

As local businesses continue to struggle with getting employees to come back to work, we wanted to know, who’s call was it to extend these benefits? And, where will Ohio get the money to pay them out?

Many workers on the other hand are relieved tonight.

After 16 weeks of filing unemployment claims, Ahmad Griffin is still waiting on a call from his employer.

“My job hasn’t opened back up yet,” he said. “I ain’t never been out of work this long, ever!”

He was a server at Steak ‘N Shake before the shutdown.

“I’ve been out of work since it shut down in March,” he said.

Now, in addition to the recently extended federally funded unemployment benefits, Griffin and others in his situation could quality for another 20 weeks of pay from the state. That potentially makes people eligible for regular unemployment for 59 weeks.

JFS made a flow chart explaining the different extensions people may now be eligible for, however it gets complicated because as a spokesperson told 19 Investigates, each person’s claim is different.

ODJFS created a flow chart of the different benefits someone may be eligible for through...
ODJFS created a flow chart of the different benefits someone may be eligible for through unemployment.(ODJFS)

But how can any of this happen? The state’s fund ran dry at the end of last month.

JFS says the extension weeks will inevitably dig Ohio into a bigger hole with the federal government.

No one signed anything recently to extend benefits though-- not the governor, nor legislators.

Director Kim Hall says an already existing state law triggers extended benefits when Ohio’s unemployment rates are high.

“That sort of flips on when we hit a certain rate and so we are on the hook to pay for that,” she said.

Many worry the extension weeks could lead more people to try to stay on unemployment.

Director Hall says JFS will discontinue benefits to someone if they receive an invitation back to work though, and the department may soon re-institute the weekly job-search requirement.

After already looking for work elsewhere, Griffin is just glad he has something to fall back on with the extended benefits.

“The job market right now is very bleak,” he said.

A spokesperson for the state says the extension weeks change depending on Ohio’s economy.

So, the way things are now, people are eligible for the additional 20 weeks, but that could increase or decrease depending on the market over the next few weeks.

The extension weeks do not include the extra $600 provided in the Federal CARES Act. That program runs out at the end of July.

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