Since the COVID crisis began tightening its grip, unemployment in Ohio has risen by exponential levels. As Andrew Welsh-Huggins of AP reports, the unemployment rate in the state now sits at 16.8%, the highest in 44 years. If you’re one of the many that have lost their job or been asked to work reduced hours because of the pandemic, Unemployment Insurance benefits (UI) could be the difference between sinking and swimming.
Unemployment benefits are by no means a free-for-all. Should you need to apply, be prepared to follow some strict requirements concerning eligibility. Typically, all UI claimants in Ohio are expected to:
- Have been made unemployed through no fault of their own
- Be physically able and willing to find a job and be actively seeking employment
- Have earned at least $269 per week over a defined one-year period
- Be legally authorized for US employment
All that said, the requirements have relaxed since the introduction of the CARES Act of 27 March 2020. While you’ll still be expected to meet minimum income requirements, you’ll no longer need to fulfill the work-search requirement should your reason for becoming unemployed can be explained by the following: you either have coronavirus or in quarantine after exposure (the exposure will need to be medically verified); someone in your household has coronavirus or is in quarantine; you’re under orders to shelter in place; you’ve been laid off; you aren’t able to get to your place of business because of school closures. In a further shake-up to the usual rules, the self-employed, gig workers, and freelancers –who would not normally be eligible for support – are now invited to apply.
Filing for Unemployment
Once you’ve checked your eligibility, you can move on to filing your application. As UI is retrospective only to the day you filed the claim (as opposed to your last day of employment), try to do this as soon as possible after losing your job or reducing your hours, and ideally within a maximum of 3 calendar days of either. Claims can be made either:
- By calling (877) 644-6562 or TTY (614) 387-8408, Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
As the department is currently experiencing unusually high call volumes due to the COVID situation, it’s advisable to file online where possible to avoid long wait times. During your application, you’ll be asked to provide info relating to both your employment and personal circumstances. Before you start, do like the Department of Job and Family Services advises and gather together the following:
- Your full name, mailing address, contact number, SSN, and e-mail address
- Employment history, to include name, address, and working dates of all employers you’ve worked for within the last 6 weeks (If you’ve worked outside Ohio in the last 18 months, you’ll need to provide the same for of all out-of-state employers)
- Discharge forms from the military for former service people
- Form-8 and SF-50 form for former government employees
- An explanation of why you left your most recent employer
- Dates of birth, names, and SSN for any dependents’ that you’re at least 50% financially responsible for
- Alien Registration number for non-US citizens
- Your usual job title/ occupation
The process will take around 25 minutes to complete. You don’t have to complete it in one sitting, but bear in mind that failing to complete a claim within 48 hours of starting will result in everything that’s already been entered being wiped.
Maximum Benefits Amounts
Within 5 days of receiving your claim, the Department of Job and Family Services will issue a monetary determination stating the amount of benefit you’ll receive should your claim be successful. The amount will be determined by your past income, together with how many dependents you have. Weekly benefits are capped at $480 for those with no dependents, $582 for those with 1-2 dependents, and $647 for those with 3 or more dependents.
Typically, you would not be paid for the first week of unemployment. However, now that the CARES Act has removed the ‘waiting week’, you’ll be paid from the start of your claim. Until the end of July, you’ll also receive an additional payment of $600 per week on top of what the state pays. The payment has been introduced through the CARES Act, which also sees the usual time limit for claiming benefits lift from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. Payment is made by either bank deposit or by debit card, depending on your preference.
Once you’ve filed your initial claim, you’ll need to begin certifying your claim weekly. Do this even while your claim is being reviewed to prevent any potential issues with payment. Typically, the Department of Job and Family Services will come back to you within 2 weeks with confirmation of their decision. However, due to the record number of new claims currently being received, expect it to be around 3 weeks before you hear back. Once they’ve confirmed your eligibility, the department will issue a Notice of Determination. Payment should follow within a few days.
If your claim is denied, you can appeal the determination. Appeals can be made online at the Department of Job and Family Services website and will need to be completed within 21 days of the mailing date of the determination letter. The letter will include full instructions on what evidence needs to be provided in order to progress your appeal. Once you’ve filed the appeal, you’ll receive a hearing date at which the case will be reviewed. Appeals made after the initial hearing will first need to be made to the Board of Review, and finally to the court. Continue to certify your unemployment claims weekly while you await a decision on the appeal. Should you win the appeal, the department will only backdate payment for the weeks that a claim was made.