LIMA — Nearly 1 million Ohioans have applied for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks, eclipsing the number of initial jobless claims filed in the last two years and bringing the state’s probable jobless rate closer to 17%.
The unprecedented volume of new jobless claims — all filed within a matter of weeks, rather than months — has led scores of newly out-of-work Ohioans to wait for weeks before their first payments arrived.
Ohio has already paid more than $926 million in unemployment benefits since the coronavirus-inspired mass layoffs started in March. But only 376,000 Ohioans had received a payment as of April 18, according to the latest figures released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services on Thursday.
The agency’s unemployment help website says it is at least one week behind on distributing payments, which can take another 24 to 48 hours to arrive after a person’s account says they will be paid.
Here’s what’s new:
• Ohio plans to unveil its application portal for independent contractors and others who traditionally don’t qualify for unemployment insurance on Friday, April 24. Claims will not be processed until May, as the state is still developing the technology to process these claims. But the online portal will allow anyone who has not been able to apply for unemployment yet to create an account and complete their paperwork ahead of time.
• Ohioans who have been waiting to see an additional $600 per week in unemployment compensation should start seeing those benefits this week. Job and Family Services on Thursday said it has issued payments to at least 400,000 Ohioans this week, which are retroactive to March 29 or the date the person become eligible for unemployment.
The supplemental benefits are federally funded as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
• Job and Family Services plans to unveil a virtual call center by the end of this week, according to Bret Crow, a spokesperson for the agency. Crow said the agency has already hired more than 1,500 workers for its call center, which receives an estimated 500,000 calls per day.
Mackenzi Klemann is a reporter with The Lima News. Reach her at 567-242-0456.