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Business & Economy

Ohio Chamber Of Commerce Leader Proposes Bonuses, Required Training For Jobless Ohioans

A sign on a central Ohio fast food restaurant, indicating it's closed because there weren't enough workers to open for the day.
Karen Kasler
Ohio Public Radio
A sign on a central Ohio fast food restaurant, indicating it's closed because there weren't enough workers to open for the day.

Ohio returned $1.5 billion in federal COVID relief money to repay what it borrowed to keep paying unemployment benefits during the pandemic. But there’s still no solution to shoring up the state’s unemployment compensation fund, which has gone broke twice since 2009. The head of the group representing many of Ohio’s businesses said he has a plan to change the way unemployment benefits are paid.

Unemployed Ohioans can get 26 weeks of jobless benefits, but Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers would like to see them handled differently.

“If you get a job before, say, twelve weeks, we should pay you a bonus because there are costs associated with going back to work and we should get people, have people have incentive to get a job as soon as they can. That bonus would do that," Stivers said.

For people without jobs after 12 weeks of receiving benefits, Stivers said, "you should be required to be in a job training program to keep getting your unemployment check because let’s acknowledge that at three months unemployed, when there's more jobs available than unemployed people today, you must not have the skills you need to be employed in today's workforce.”

Stivers, the Republican former Congressman from the 15th District in central Ohio who left that job earlier this year, said he’ll be working with lawmakers on legislation on this.

The state overpaid $3.4 billion in non-fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic. It also paid out $478 million in fraudulent claims in both traditional unemployment and the federally-funded pandemic unemployment assistance program, for workers who didn't qualify for the other program.

But the discussion about how to shore up the unemployment compensation fund has gone on for the better part of two decades. Multiple bills have been proposed, but all have failed. Unions have typically pushed back on cuts in benefits, which they said are too low anyway, while business groups have balked at increased taxes.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.