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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Coronavirus Update 7-30-2020: Ohio needs to fix its unemployment system, π—»π—Όπ˜„


The State of Ohio has temporarily frozen its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, as the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services investigates what it believes are more than 275,000 fraudulent claims that have flooded the system.

The CARES Act created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment benefits because of a coronavirus related reason. 

News 5 Cleveland spoke to Kimberly Hall, Director of ODJFS, who defended the agency's backlog: "Sifting through who is legitimate and who is genuine and who's not is certainly a challenge." Hall also says that ODJFS is trying to help legitimate claimants restore their benefits as soon as possible, and that it's trying to supply additional phone agents and improve its email system for this purpose. ODJFS Assistant Director Bruce Madson says that he hopes to have this problem fixed in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, how is this affecting unemployed Ohioans? News 5 Ohio spoke to one.

Jesse Taylor of Mentor said without pandemic benefits it's becoming increasingly difficult to support his young son and his fiancΓ©e.

Taylor said he submitted documents to ODJFS some 30 times to prove he's a legitimate claimant, but each time he said he was given a different story in trying to restore his benefits.

"I'm not getting any straight answers from anyone."

"Their rep would say we put in your request for a fact-finding sheet, I called four days later, the person I got to then said she never did it the first time."

"This could make me homeless and the car could get repossessed, that’s bad enough."

"I had to send in all of the same documents that I have been sending in, to prove my identity, and they approved all of that. I don’t understand why I have to send everything in again."

"They're not training the reps well, some of them are pretty nasty on the phone when you talk to them, they're irritated."

This situation is unacceptable. While no one could have predicted the coronavirus pandemic (or at least couldn't have predicted how bad it's been and how hard it's impacted us), we've now been living with for four months. At this point, it's inexcusable that systems aren't in place and resources aren't available for unemployment claimants so that their benefits aren't shut off. Ohio, get your stuff together and fix this mess now.

* Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay