The state has paid out more than $1.7 billion to over a half a million jobless Ohioans in the last seven weeks. And while 85 percent of claims have either been paid or denied, there are still reports of people having trouble filing claims via the web or over the phone.
But there another section of the state’s unemployment website that’s starting to get attention – a page where employers who are reopening can report workers who say they won’t go back.
The page is labeled as “report COVID-19 employee fraud”. It's a form by which employers can document when an employee quit or refused to come back to work, whether their job was the same as it was pre-COVID-19, and whether the employer does "maintain the safety standards that are required by the Ohio Governor's Office".
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall said while that's labeled as a COVID-19 issue, this is part of a longstanding process.
“We’ve always had at ODJFS a policy around how we handle when individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits turn down a viable offer for work, so this is not a new policy or approach," Hall said.
And she said fear of getting the virus isn’t a valid reason: “That would not be sufficient. The analysis would need to be that your work environment, the conditions there are such that you’re at risk from a health and safety standard.”
Hall said employees can appeal.
And those who think their employers aren’t following the state’s COVID-19 rules can report them to their local health department. There's a link on the Ohio Department of Health's website.
The state is also still working on its system to pay 1099, self-employed workers and independent contractors. Hall said 185,000 people have pre-registered to set up their accounts, so they'll be ready when the system is up and running. But since that system is still being built, that's not expected until mid-May.