Unemployed Face Hurdles for Benefits

Dayton Daily News - September 27, 2001

Study indicates system needs to change eligibility requirements
by Jennine Zeleznik

Dayton Daily News

COLUMBUS | About one out of three unemployed Ohioans received benefits last year because of tough requirements that disqualify many potential applicants, a study released Wednesday showed.

The study, conducted by Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based nonprofit research organization, said 31 percent of the state’s unemployed received benefits. That ranked Ohio behind 33 states in the percentage of unemployed workers getting benefits.

“Ohio is out of whack with the rest of the country,” said Zach Schiller, who conducted the study.

The report said benefits for the typical Ohio worker are on par with other states. However, the state has some of the toughest requirements in the nation to receive benefits, according to the report. That means many part-time workers or those with low-income jobs don’t qualify.

Part-timers make up about 19 percent of Ohio’s workforce. To receive benefits, they would have had to make at least $169 per week for at least 20 weeks during the year. Also, people forced to leave work for family-related reasons, such as caring for a sick child, do not receive benefits.

Meanwhile, the report said, Ohio employers are paying less in unemployment taxes, with about 35,000, or 15 percent of all Ohio employers, not paying any at all.

The report suggests that employers’ taxes should mirror employees’ wages. This would give the state a stronger reserve fund in case of a severe economic downturn.

Officials with the state’s Unemployment Compensation Advisory Council, however, said the system works for those in need.

“It’s reaching the people it’s meant to reach,” said Megan Galajda, a council member and manager of government relations for General Electric Co. in Columbus.

State Rep. Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, is also a member of the council. He said the system could be improved, but he doesn’t see it happening any time soon.

“They run [the agency] like a business and take the human element out of it,” Strahorn said.

Schiller also said Ohio should loosen its eligibility requirements.

“There are a number of ways in which the work force has changed over the past decades,” Schiller said. “The unemployment system hasn’t changed correspondingly.”

Contact Jennine Zeleznik at (614) 224-1625 or jzeleznik@coxohio.com

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