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Government/Politics

Judge Orders ODJFS To Review All Denials For Unemployment In 21 Days

A sign on the door of a closed cafe in downtown Columbus
Karen Kasler
/
A sign on the door of a closed cafe in downtown Columbus

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has 21 days to decide appeals from people who were denied federal pandemic unemployment assistance, according to a ruling from a Franklin County judge.

This could have a big impact on the backlog of 150,000 appeals at ODJFS.

William Hummel filed the lawsuit after he waited 38 days to get a review of his denied pandemic unemployment claim. ODJFS said it was delayed because of the sheer volume of applications received in the pandemic.

Karin Nordstrom with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus represented Hummel, and said state law requires that a redetermination shall be issued within 21 days.

“The court found that ODJFS had violated that duty, and ordered ODJFS to decide all appeals in the future within 21 days," Nordstrom said.

And Judge Christopher Brown also wrote that though Hummel had gotten his review, the situation was not moot, and that ODJFS "is hereby ordered to address all appeals of unemployment benefits denials within twenty-one (21) days".

Nordstrom said the decision should apply to those getting federal pandemic assistance, which runs through September 4, as well as traditional unemployment.  The state ended the $300 federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) weekly checks last month, but the PUA program continues. A lawsuit is pending on whether those checks should be restored.

Nordstrom noted her office has been in contact with ODJFS and that they've been responsive. But she suggested the agency needs help in dealing with these appeals.

“We understand that ODJFS is in a tough spot with all of the claims that they have received over the last year and a half of the pandemic," Nordstrom said. "The delay just took so long that we felt that it was important that we needed to enforce our client’s rights.”

A spokesperson for ODJFS said the ruling is being reviewed.

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