The state has paid out $858 million dollars to nearly 350,000 Ohioans who’ve lost their jobs in the last five weeks. And more claims are expected to come in from people who normally can’t file for jobless benefits but will be able to under a federal aid bill.
Starting on Friday, the self-employed and independent contractors – known as 1099 workers – will be able to file their pre-registration for the process that the state is still working on to pay them, though it won’t be running for a few weeks.
The state has been working to upgrade its filing system to make it cloud-based, and has increased capacity by 20 times, since 90% of people are using the website to apply for benefits. But calls are still flooding in to the state's phone lines at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
“We’ve averaging 650,000 or so calls on the weekday," said ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall. "When you multiply that by about six minutes or so to handle a call, we would need 3500 agents to answer every single one of those calls.”
Officials have advised people who want or need to call rather than go online to try on the weekends. But Hall said the system is still processing an average of 142,000 calls on a weekend day.
Hall also notes that people who have filed still must file they are unemployed every week. So the state is asking them to file those claims on designated days:
Unemployment Claimants: In an effort to better serve you, this new process will help relieve pressure on our system so that claims can be filed more easily and paid more quickly. #InThisTogetherOhio #EveryClaimIsImportant #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/ZBiOk7piHl
— OhioJFS (@OhioJFS) April 22, 2020
Hall said 18,000 more Ohioans have applied for SNAP or food stamps now than compared to this time last year – that’s an increase of 172%.
But Hall said there may be some relief coming soon. Payments of $600 for each claimant, which was provided in the federal CARES Act, could start going out on Friday.