DELPHOS — Their jobs are gone. Their once-steady incomes have quickly vanished. For millions of Americans who have suddenly found themselves out of work, the promises of emergency stimulus can’t come soon enough.
But until that relief comes, families like Ashley and Jeremy Stemen are asking difficult questions: Is it time to pull from the family’s 401k? Should the couple shut off their cellphones instead? Are there bills that can be paid late?
“We watch the governor every day,” Ashley Stemen said.
Stemen, 31, hasn’t worked since Angel’s Family Hair Salon in Lima closed last week, complying with Gov. Mike DeWine’s temporary ban on salons and spas.
While the salon has waived her booth rent — the monthly fees stylists pay to rent space from a salon — Stemen is an independent contractor, a common classification for stylists which typically prevents them from claiming unemployment insurance.
“There’s a lot of hair stylists right now hurting over this,” she said.
Those stylists and other independent contractors may soon be eligible for some unemployment assistance when the federal stimulus package, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and was expected to pass the House shortly after, takes effect.
But Stemen’s husband, Jeremy, 36, was laid off prior to the coronavirus outbreak and has been unable to find work in the shut down. His unemployment insurance, which accounts for less than half of his regular income, will end within a month unless the final version of the federal stimulus bill makes good on a promise to extend unemployment eligibility by 13 weeks.
The couple, who have three children, have already cut back on groceries and other expenses. And Stemen said she is looking for temporary work.
“We have a good support system,” she said, “it’s just they’re in the same boat as us. They can’t pay their bills.”
Ohio sets new unemployment record
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 187,780 new jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor from March 15 through March 21. That single week shattered monthly jobless claims records from the early 1980s recession.
Ohio reported 7,042 new unemployment claims just one week prior.
It took Rodney Dudgeon several days to file his unemployment insurance claim after he was temporarily laid off from Setex Inc., an automotive parts supplier for Honda based in St. Marys.
The state’s unemployment phone lines and website were so busy that Dudgeon says it took close to an hour and a half just to reset his personal identification number, which he received years ago after he lost a different job.
He was finally able to submit his claim online around 1 a.m. Tuesday, an experience echoed by the thousands of Ohioans who have suddenly found themselves out of work.
“I’ll have a job when it’s over,” Dudgeon said.
Trying to do it right
Jim Pinks thought he was doing the right thing when he shut down Triple R Construction in Harrod. He laid off his five employees to follow the state’s “Stay at Home” order, assuming other construction businesses would do the same.
But when he left his home to go fishing on Wednesday, he saw plenty of construction companies still working.
“There are so many people working, doing basically the same type of work,” Pinks said. “We’re not building houses. … We know we’re not essential to the food chain. I just can’t get any answers on why they’re still working and why certain companies have shut down.”
It’s not for lack of work for Pinks, who has been in business since 1992. He said he has “all kinds of work lined up,” including three houses under contract. But he’s trying to respect the intent of the order.
“Us people who are trying to stop working during the quarantine, we know it’s that much longer I’ll have to be off of work if this drags out,” he said. “… How long can I sustain being off from work? Not really a long time.”
David Trinko contributed to this report.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.