LIMA — We’re now three weeks into a new era of mass unemployment caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but questions regarding the federal stimulus package — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act — and the new unemployment programs it created persist.
Here, The Lima News took some of your most pressing questions to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Answers were provided through a spokesperson and the agency’s overview of these unemployment programs, found here.
The CARES Act was supposed to increase my weekly unemployment compensation by $600, but I haven’t seen it yet. What’s going on?
Those payments are delayed because Ohio is still programming its system to include the additional $600 per week promised by the CARES Act. It is not clear when Ohioans will start seeing that money.
But the program is retroactive, so anyone who was eligible for unemployment between March 29 and July 31 should eventually see those benefits.
Why the delay? Bret Crow, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said the agency’s focus thus far has been “to handle the crush of claims and process payments as fast as we can.” He said the agency has paid out more than $97 million in the last three weeks alone. That number will continue to grow as more claims are processed.
And Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which administers unemployment programs, is still waiting for clarification from the federal Department of Labor on how some of the coronavirus-related programs will be administered.
I was unemployed prior to the coronavirus mass layoffs. Am I eligible for the additional $600 per week too?
Yes, this benefit will be available to all Ohioans who collect unemployment between March 29 and July 31, when the emergency benefit expires. That includes anyone who was unemployed prior to the passage of the CARES Act. These benefits will not be available after July 31 unless Congress decides to extend them in another stimulus package.
You’ll also be eligible for the 13-week unemployment extension after you exhaust your state benefits, even if you were unemployed prior to the coronavirus-inspired layoff wave. But this extension is only good through Dec. 31.
When will the self-employed and independent contractors be eligible for unemployment?
It is not clear when the new federal unemployment programs will be available in Ohio. But the CARES Act did make the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, part-timers and others with limited work histories eligible for what is called pandemic unemployment assistance.
Ohio is now working to create a new 1099 system to process these claims, which will be handled separately from basic unemployment claims the state normally deals with. If you’re self-employed and can no longer work, you’ll have to wait until this new system is built before you can apply.
This program is also retroactive to Jan. 27 and will be available through Dec. 31. But just like traditional unemployment, there are restrictions on how long you can receive benefits. In this case, you’ll only be able to draw benefits for 39 weeks. Your weekly benefits will be calculated in a similar way to traditional jobless claims, which are about 50% of your average weekly wage plus the extra $600.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.