LIMA — Ohioans who exhaust their regular unemployment benefits and the 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may be eligible for an additional 20 weeks of extended benefits, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said Monday, allowing some Ohioans to potentially claim up to 59 weeks of jobless benefits amid one of the worst economic crises the state has witnessed.
“We will soon begin notifying individuals who may qualify for this additional assistance to instruct them how to apply,” ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall said in a statement Monday. “Although high unemployment rates are never welcome news, we are happy that we can offer this extra support for Ohioans who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are having difficulty finding work.”
More than 1.4 million Ohioans have filed jobless claims in the last 15 weeks.
While the number of Ohioans continuing to file unemployment claims has fallen by about 332,600 since the April 25 peak — when the state’s jobless rate hit 17.6% — unemployment was still 13.7% in May. And ODJFS weekly reports show another 35,600 new jobless claims were filed the week of June 27, which is about five times higher than the week before the coronavirus-induced shutdowns started.
In fact, 138,394 first-time jobless claims were filed in June, despite many businesses reopening.
“Even though we see more people going back to work, we’re still going to have a lot of businesses — now that they’ve semi-reopened or reopened — that have decided that they just can’t make it or that they used their loan money to make wage payments, and it’s just not enough,” said John Navin, professor and dean of the James F. Dicke College of Business Administration at Ohio Northern University.
“This is just going to happen for a while,” he said.
The new 20-week unemployment extension does not apply to the federally funded $600 weekly supplemental benefits created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which boosted incomes for millions of out-of-work Americans.
Those benefits will end the week of July 25 unless Congress agrees to extend the program, known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.
Navin said that while workers in low-paying jobs may now be earning more on unemployment than they did while working, which some critics of the FPUC have argued will act as a disincentive for people to return to work, he doesn’t believe the extra $600 in weekly benefits will keep most people from reentering the workforce when benefits are offered.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of people who are going to be hurt when that $600 goes away,” he said, “simply because the economy has not really recovered to the point that those people are even able to (get back to work).”
The CARES Act created two other unemployment programs: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which allowed self-employed, part-time and other workers who are typically denied access to state unemployment insurance to draw benefits for up to 39 weeks, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extended unemployment benefits by 13 weeks.
Ohioans who exhaust their regular unemployment benefits — which max out after 26 weeks in Ohio — as well as the 13-week PEUC extension and the 20 weeks of extended state benefits may also qualify for PUA until that program ends on December 26. Ohio’s extended benefits are open to individuals who originally enrolled in PUA as well, allowing independent contractors and part-timers to claim benefits for up to 46 weeks.