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Ohio Advocates Call For Unemployment Compensation System Reforms

A sign in the window of Trattoria Roma in Grandview on May 14, 2020.
David Holm
A sign in the window of Trattoria Roma in Grandview on May 14, 2020.

A collection of health and human services advocates are urging Ohio leaders to immediately work on revamping the unemployment compensation system in order to avoid another backlog of claims.

The groups, which include the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and Policy Matters Ohio are calling on the Ohio Senate to pass a bill, HB614, that creates the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council.

They say the current, antiquated system caused long delays during the pandemic, meaning thousands had to wait weeks or even months to receive their benefits.

Tatyana Atkinson, a cosmetologist from Cleveland, says these problems can reoccur if businesses have to close again.

"Tomorrow, if someone from my salon said they had COVID-19, I would have to call everyone who's come in, talk to everyone who's about to come for the next two weeks," Atkinson says. "We'd shut down for the next two weeks."

Under the bill, the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council would be required to examine:

  • The technological infrastructure used to file claims and pay benefits and the experience had by individuals and employers participating in the process
  • Possible improvements that will maximize responsiveness for individuals and employers
  • Methods for sharing data across systems related to unemployment compensation to maximize efficiency
  • Methods for synergizing user experience across multiple programs administered or supervised by the director of job and family services.

The council would have 11 members, comprised of people representing employers, employees, the Ohio General Assembly, and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The advocacy groups are proposing several changes, including the creation of a 24/7 call center and lower eligibility standards.

However, the council would not examine the state unemployment compensation fund's solvency issue - Ohio recently had to borrow $3.1 billion from the federal government after the fund ran out of money.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.