Per Gov. Mike DeWine’s orders, many public gathering places in Ohio have been closed until further notice in an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These orders include places such as restaurants, bars, recreation centers, nail salons, and barbershops, among others. In the wake of his decision, employees of these establishments have essentially been laid off. Many are seeing reduced hours if there are any available at all.
There are plans at the state level in motion to extend unemployment benefits for workers who are quarantined or worked at a business that has been closed because of the virus. During a press conference held Monday, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted stated, “We will be broadening the current state policy to clarify that individuals that are quarantined by a health professional or by their employer are considered to be unemployed and will not be subject to the requirements to actively seek work, during this period of emergency.”
Since that conference, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act has passed both houses of Congress and is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump. It ensures free coronavirus testing and helps boost unemployment programs along with food safety programs.
The act further amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to allow up to 10 weeks of paid leave to those who have had employment impacted by the virus. Another law in the act is the Emergency Paid Sick Leave act, which gives full-time employees who were affected up to 80 hours of paid sick leave.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) released a statement giving context to the number of people in need following the passing of the act: “Applications for unemployment in Ohio have jumped from 6,500 last week to more than 70,000 in the first two days of this week alone.”
Small businesses are also hoping to get some relief from the government. Low-interest emergency loans of up to $2 million are expected to be available by Friday to those who apply. The interest rate for small businesses is 3.75% and 2.75% for nonprofits. The terms for repayment vary case by case. More information will be available once the federal government has ruled on a bill for relief.
As for benefits here in Ohio, when someone normally applies for unemployment, there is a weeklong waiting period before funds are allocated. DeWine’s order has waived this period, and payments are going to be expedited to mitigate the stress on workers.
Self-quarantined patients are not eligible under the declaration. Only those who are unable to work due to no fault of their own can apply.
Delaware County Economic Development Director Bob Lamb wants to assure people that steps are being made to keep the process moving along. Delaware County has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, hovering around 2.8 to 3.3% most months. For January, the rate was 3.6%.
The state has provided a mass layoff instructions sheet on its website that’s available for employers to give to their employees. The form includes a mass layoff number needed to label those who have been impacted by COVID-19. Applicants will need to give personal information such as their social security number, state ID number, etc. Questions regarding how applicants became unemployed will be asked as well as if the applicant has any dependents they need to provide for.
Ohioans can apply for unemployment online at www.unemployment.ohio.gov or by phone at (877) 644-6562. The phone line is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is recommended to apply online as the wait times for the phone line have been long.
Alex Hulvalchick can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @amhulvalchick.