A bill that seeks to shore up the state’s unemployment fund by making cuts to what businesses pay into it and to the benefits that jobless workers get is temporarily on hold.
The bill seeks to shore up the fund through which the state pays unemployment benefits before another recession. It cuts the amount businesses pay to that fund, because its sponsor says they’ve been paying penalties and surcharges into the fund for more than a decade. But the bill also shortens the window for jobless workers to get unemployment checks from 26 weeks to between 12 and 20 weeks. And it cuts extra benefits to workers with dependents, and deducts some Social Security payments from benefits. Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclava Township) acknowledged there were questions raised about her bill by Senators. “We’re going to be looking at all the different components, and certainly weeks is a major portion of the bill – it’s one of the largest changes so certainly that is one of the things we're having conversations on," Sears said.
Advocates for low-income Ohioans had blasted the bill as unfair to workers, and said it would make it harder to qualify for benefits in Ohio than any other state. Lisa Hamler Fugitt with the Ohio Association of Food Banks is among the activists for hundreds of groups who’d called on lawmakers to scrap the bill entirely and start over. “We look forward to working with the legislative group that will be convening, and firmly believe that stakeholder input, not an insider deal, is needed to fix the unemployment system in the long term,” Hamler-Fugitt said.
Sears stands behind her bill, saying this pause isn’t unusual for a big piece of legislation and she still expects it to pass before the end of the year.