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Restaurant Employees Looking Forward To Extra $300 In Unemployment Checks

Ohioans receiving unemployment benefits can expect an additional $300 weekly starting mid-to-late September. The payments will be retroactive, going back to Aug. 1.

Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) President John Baker told ideastream those additional funds are “really a lifeline” for many restaurant employees, whose industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. 

More than 585,000 Ohioans usually work in the restaurant industry, but when the pandemic hit and restaurants statewide had to close their doors, hundreds of thousands of employees — more than half the state's food service workforce — were left without jobs.

As coronavirus restrictions lifted and restaurants have been allowed to reopen over the summer, the situation improved. But Barker said roughly one-third of Ohio’s restaurant employees are still unemployed. 

“For so many in our industry they’re just trying to survive until we can get back to whatever the new normal’s going to be,” he said. 

Even among restaurants that have been able to reopen, Baker said most are operating at 50 percent capacity to comply with social distancing rules and other coronavirus precautions. 

With the outdoor dining season coming to an end soon, Baker said things are not looking good for the state’s second largest industry sector. According to a recent ORA survey, more than half of Ohio restaurant owners fear they will have to permanently close by next year. 

That’s one of the reasons Jacqueline Lynum is looking for work everywhere but the hospitality industry. As she put it, “you can’t sit out in the snow and eat.”  

Lynum was the food and beverage manager at the DoubleTree Hotel in Downtown Cleveland for 25 years before she was furloughed in March. Lynum had been relying on the extra $600 in unemployment benefits that was a part of the CARES Actpassed by Congress to provide relief during the pandemic. 

“It helped me to pay off some bills because I wasn’t making [money] anymore and I was able to save some, so that now that we aren’t getting anything but the unemployment I can still meet most of my payments,” Lynum said. 

But those extra benefits expired in July. Lynum said unemployment is roughly half of what she made working full-time, so the additional $300 will be helpful. 

For Jeana Said, an extra $300 a week would mean “a lot of stress lifted off the shoulders.” 

Said was a server at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City for six years before she was furloughed in March. At the same time, schools shut their doors, which meant she had to care for and teach her 4-year-old daughter.

Working in the restaurant industry taught her to budget well, she said, which she has managed to do, though it’s been “extremely difficult,” she said. 

The additional unemployment benefits will help her family, but she knows they won’t last forever.

“At the end of the day, I can’t live off unemployment so there will be a time when I am absolutely going to have to go back to work,” she said.

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.